Sindhu Sreeraj from Nilambur, Kerala India
I was a mere housewife until my husband met with an accident 4 years back and our financial stability was in doldrums. He couldn’t go for work and we were under extreme financial stress as his medical expenses were also raising day by day. Without any source of income, I took up the decision to go for work to support my family. I started working a marketing agent for a company on a commission basis. But it was quite a tedious job where I had to work for nearly 12 hours a day and at the end of the month I would get only INR 8000.I was unable to attend to my child also. It was then that one of my relative introduced me to MAT MAKING using cotton materials left unused in the garment-manufacturing units. I was inspired to start a MAT MAKING UNIT of my own where I can stay at home, attend to my family’s needs and also earn income. So I went to some of my relatives and neighbours to borrow money to buy the mat making machine. Somehow I could not get the desired amount and it was then that one of my aunt who is with ESAF asked me to joint ESAF. From then onwards there is no looking back.
I used the first and the second one to buy mat weaving machine. I did not use the first loan until I got the second one so that I can have enough money. As the demand increased I bought 2 more machine and employed 3 more women from our group to work for me. And with the latest loan of INR 60,000 from ESAF and some more savings from my end I bought 3 more machines. Today I have 6 machines and I have given employment to 5 women who are also supporting their families through this small-scale unit, which I have started in our small village.
There is a huge difference in the income levels of our household from the time when my husband was the only breadwinner to what I am today. When my husband was earning he would get some 600 Rs per day. We could barely meet our two ends without much savings. It wasn’t too easy to meet the hospital expenses also when my husband met with the accident. Now my income is around 2000 INR per day after meeting all the expenses. I have on worries now. We are a happy family; we have a purpose in life. I want to buy more machines and give employment to more women. I can give all that my son wants now. There is no compromise on the food. My son is in 4th std and is 9 years old. I remember him asking for a new bicycle which I could not afford but now I have bought a good quality bicycle for him. Also he is fond of some delicacies like biriyani which I could not buy for him earlier but now I can.
- Submitted by ESAF Microfinance

Anulipi Ray owns and co-runs a jewelry store with her husband, Mukul Ray. She has been a client of BRAC for 11 years. She started a deposit premium scheme (DPS), a special savings scheme via bKash, a mobile money platform, a year ago. 
Anulipi, was hesitant at first thinking that she will make a mistake, but had enough faith in the system to concur that if she makes a mistake, BRAC will support her.
“When BRAC first said I had to pay via bKash, I was worried because I had not used bKash before but BRAC taught me how to use it by hand. It was complicated, initially, but now I have come around to fully understanding it”, she says.
Now, Anulipi confidently assists others in operating the bKash menu and admits how this has made her life much more convenient because she does not have to travel and saved her a lot of time and money. It used to cost her 40 taka (Bangladeshi local currency) for each trip to the BRAC office to make payments and take time out of her business, which often meant having to turn away valuable customers.
When asked about whether the impersonal factor of using a mobile money platform makes her feel insecure, she says that it does not present a security risk because as soon as the money is sent, she receives a confirmation via SMS which tells her the money is not lost and how much money has been deposited with no bKash fee charged.
Anulipi, like many other women in her village, is saving for her child’s future education. She has a son who is currently enrolled in Grade 5 at a boarding school and aspires for him to go to a good college.
- Submitted by Oishi Nawal, BRAC Bangladesh

"Gayatri Devi lives in Chhattisgarh, India, taking care of an extended family of eight. Her husband works in a cloth mill in Gujarat, and comes home once every 6 months. He sends money every month for household expenditures, some of which Gayatri deposits at the agent point in her village. Because women are not allowed to go too far from their homes, she has never seen a bank branch in her life. The nearest bank branch is 7 kilometres away from her village.
 
"Although Gayatri opened her account five months ago, she still has not received a passbook, despite repeated follow-up with the agent. She wants to repair her house and needs a loan to do so. She asked the agent about the process of accessing a loan, but he had no information about options for credit.
 
"A month ago, the agent stopped working and his shop is now usually closed. Even when it opens, the agent says that there is some issue with the server. She has lost trust in the agent and is now back to saving money at home, as the bank is too far away.
 
"She feels that she is stuck in the system, and unless the agent starts working again, she cannot withdraw her money for the much needed house repairs. Social norms prevent her from travelling and complaining at the bank branch, or even to the agent, as this would attract criticism from other male villagers, and her family may have to face the brunt of it. The only thing she can do for now is to wait for her husband to return home and take up the issue.”
 
- Submitted by Soumya Harsh and Graham Wright, MicroSave

 

Six days a week Carlos purchases his fresh fish, which he then sells at his market stall. “Todo lo que traigo lo vendo.” (Everything I bring, I sell.) He described how his customers line up daily to buy his fish. By mid-day, all of Carlos’ fish is sold and his stall has been cleaned up and packed away. He manages all his business transactions in cash, and keeps accounts in his head rather than relying on written record-keeping or computerized systems.
- Submitted by Christy Stickney, CFI Fellow

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Yolanda from Guatemala leads a group of women through a program run by an organization called Friendship Bridge. The group teaches lessons every month about women's health, rights, and earnings. Says Yolanda: "What I want for the group of women I lead is that they will know they have worth and that they have rights as women.”

- Submitted by Dana Bruxvoort de Andres, Friendship Bridge


 

Catarina, from Mozambique, grinds grain for her neighbors using a big teal machine that stands in the courtyard of her home. She makes cornmeal and rice flour and ground lentils - running pounds and pounds of kernels through the machine after women carry them in in heaping bags on their heads. The two machines in Catarina's home are just a couple of the 18 machines that she and her husband own. They have expanded their little business into a city-wide company with nine points of sale/service. Talk about scaling well and achieving their goals!

- Submitted by Ian Haisley, Opportunity International


Our research found that even though the women preferred receiving their income support payments electronically, ultimately they preferred cash over digital. In both Colombia and Pakistan, the women reported cashing out the whole support payment, with only a few instances of people reporting leaving some of their payment in their account and no instances of them using their account to make a payment, accumulate long-term savings, or leveraging their account relationship to get a loan from the financial institution handling their payment. 
As one focus group participant in Colombia stated: “It (the money from the support payment) is safer in the house because you know you have it there.” In sum, our research suggests that even though the women receive their income support payment digitally, cash is still king.
- Submitted by Guy Stuart, Executive Director of Microfinance Opportunities and CFI Fellow

 

In our interview, Mercy from Malawi had all the moves and couldn't stop grooving. And why should she? She's the president of her trust group and is working hard to achieve her goals. Get it, girl!

- Submitted by Allison Kooser, Opportunity International


Pinki Kachar, a client at RBL Bank from Indore, India, runs a bangles kiosk with her husband Dharmender. She recently decided to increase the number of financial tools she uses, acquiring accident and life insurance. Pinki also expanded her business by training other women in beauty parlor courses, and this shift has nearly doubled her income. In part because of this, Pinki and Dharmender are planning on establishing fixed deposit (FD) accounts for each of their three children. Through this growth process, she has benefitted from the support offered by financial literacy training.
 
- Submitted by Usha Gopinath, Accion International

Xavier B., Maputo, Mozambique.
The slogan across the entrance to Xavier B.’s two-room shop proclaims “O peixe da Mamá” (Mom’s Fish), showing that he participates in a simple franchise operation selling carapão, the cheap frozen fish imported from Angola that is a main source of protein for Maputo’s poor.
Xavier is a slight, perky man. “I was in the Mozambican army for 13 years,” he said. “After that I was a bookkeeper for a non-profit organization in Beira. You can earn money very fast in a job like that.”  The grant ended and the program closed. “I tried to find another position, but I there was nothing.  So I came to Maputo and started this business selling fish and chicken.”
As we talked, customers came up to his shop window.  They stood outside while his employee inside weighed the fish on a balance. Xavier said it was a good business.
Xavier had borrowed $260 from a Mozambican MFI. “The loan is good, but it is too small,” he said. “I want to help my wife start a beauty salon so she will have a business, too, but the money is not enough.”
Xavier is what FSD Africa calls a “cusper”. His extended family has a little more education than most Mozambicans, and that gives them middle class hopes.  Xavier almost succeeded in entering the middle class world, but had slipped back, forced to rely on his wits.  He was evidently a good businessman, but he also had to take care of family members suffering from poor health.
When it was time for a photo, Xavier asked us to wait and disappeared out the back door. 
He returned wearing a yellow tie and threadbare blue blazer. He sat down in front of his electric typewriter. A shelf over his shoulder held a little portable TV, some plastic flowers and a Bible. Against the wall loomed his inventory of red Coca-Cola crates. He positioned himself among these possessions, placed his fingers on the keyboard, looked up, and smiled. Ready for his close-up.
- Submitted by Elisabeth Rhyne, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

In our recent research initiative, Credit on the Cusp, we were interested in knowing whether people who really need a loan—and quickly—compare interest rates. Bafo, a teacher, who because of his salary has options, still doesn’t shop around. He told us: “When I am going for a loan, I don’t look at interest. Because I need the money. I don’t care because I need the $541 (₵2,000) to pay my landlord to do something which is urgent…I’m not going to use physical cash, it’s deducted from my source, so I won’t even see it.”
- Submitted by Julie Zollman, Bankable Frontier Associates

 
Rosemary Lonewolf, USA: "If you live on a reservation, it is so difficult. I own my property, but I can’t use it as collateral. The banks won’t lend to us because they can’t repossess the property.”
 
- Submitted by Accion International

 
Yusuf Tayo, from Nigeria, is an example of confidence, drive, and hard work. She started a liquefied gas canister distribution business 15 years ago. Yusuf’s a talented saleswoman. “It’s in me. If I meet you, I know how to approach you,” she says.
 
- Submitted by Accion International

 
Daw Kyin Yee, Myanmar: 
“Before I used to worry when people invited us to weddings and parties, because in our tradition we have to bring gifts or money. I don’t worry about that anymore.”
 
- Submitted by Accion International

 
 
Altagrace Moise, Haiti: “As long as I’m on my feet, I will work.”
 
- Submitted by Accion International