By Syed Maaz Hasan Hashmi (YES 2013-2014, India, placed by AFS in Ellsworth, ME)
During my YES year, I was required to complete 60 hours of community service. These 60 hours connected me with my host community and made me kind and compassionate. I loved the idea of serving and giving back to the community. And community service introduced me to a new profession – social work.
I am currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in entrepreneurship, innovation, and design thinking, so decided to apply for a YES Alumni Grant to help underprivileged women in India learn about financial and digital topics like savings, insurance, investment, financial planning, and mobile banking. In Indian society, it is generally assumed that males are breadwinners and women are homemakers. We wanted to break this belief by educating women about money because women are equally capable as any man.
There is a huge gap between male and female literacy rates in India. 78% of males are literate while only 55% of females are. Microsave Consultancy published a report in 2020 on women's financial inclusion, and it found that 65% of women in India don’t use financial services and 88% were accompanied by their male partners for even simple ATM transactions.
We partnered with the non-profit organizations Prithak Foundation, We the Change Foundation, and Delhi Youth Welfare Association to implement this project. Our training modules included basic financial concepts, saving, loans, banking, investment, insurance, financial planning, government schemes, mobile banking, Gmail, Gmeet, and the basics of the internet and smartphones. We also connected our participants with resources and places that offer computer training.
Our 280 participants came from all walks of life – widows, housewives, urban women, students, farmers, unemployed women, and victims of domestic violence. It’s estimated that each participant has a minimum of three family members in her household, so we can proudly say we have indirectly impacted over 1,000 people with our trainings.
In a post-workshop survey, 97% reported being satisfied with their experience. Responses indicated that the information we shared about mobile banking, NET banking, fraud, and government schemes were completely new to our participants.
Following the success of this project, our mission is to become India's biggest social venture. We want to start an ed-tech platform that provides low-cost or free educational solutions to students and teachers across India.
This initiative has been a learning experience for me. I learned much about project management, public speaking, and creating pitch decks. This project also made me mentally strong. I learned the value of my teammates and interns. I learned perseverance and dedication. After completing this project, a quote from the Dalai Lama really resounds with me. “For change to happen in any community, the initiative must come from the individual.”
I am very thankful to my project team and partners organizations for being an integral part of this journey every step of the way.