New Delhi: Adolescent girls in a Mumbai slum and in three districts of rural Maharashtra will be beneficiaries of a Barclays-Unicef global community investment partnership that launches tomorrow. Part of a ten-country initiative, the £5million funding has a $1.56 million India component that will be used over next three years to build employable skills and entrepreneurship models via mentoring, microfinance and financial training.
Blended- value investments
Companies are moving beyond traditional corporate philanthropy and developing new models to generate socio-economic development, while building long-term business opportunities. The four billion people at the bottom of the economic pyramid living at less than $5 a day represent a major business opportunity if their potential can be developed. The financial sector is ripe for these ‘blended-value investments’.
The “Building Young Futures partnership” model that Barclays-Unicef have jointly envisaged will encourage habits of saving and investment which will contribute to economic empowerment and over the longer term help the bank bring in a new group of people ready to access its financial services.
According to Rachael Barber, global head of community investment, Barclays, “Most of our volunteer work has been confined to the UK where we were headquartered. But we are now making a deliberate effort to expand these geographies and target new markets.” Last year the bank spent 52.4 million pounds on social and community building projects of which 50% was outside the UK.
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Banking on volunteerism
A strong culture within the organization is to not limit involvement through financial donation alone but to play an active role by participating and engaging with activities.
This same spirit of volunteerism will run strongly through the India leg of the programme. Samir Bhatia, managing director India & Indian Ocean Barclays GRCB expects his 500-plus employee base in Maharashtra to get actively involved with the project. He says, “We will work closely with Unicef through the planning and implementation phases and our employees will engage with beneficiaries in all stages - formal education and coaching, career counseling, mentoring and vocational skills training imparting knowledge on money management, financial planning and entrepreneurship.”
Grooming adolescent girls as change agents
For 15-year old Rukhsana of Dhorpa village in Chandrapur district, the change that she would like to see is for the girl child to be just as wanted as a male child. Her dream is to “become something, so that her family can take pride in her and know that daughters can do what a son can and more.”
According to Anuradha Nair, social policy planning, monitoring and evaluation specialist, Unicef, “The Deepshikha (lighting lamps) project will run in the districts of Latur, Nandurbar and Chandrapur and selected slums of Mumbai. It aims to reach at least 25 girls (12 and 18 years), from each village covering a total of 70,000”
It will follow a three-step process of identifying groups of 25-30 girls from the community and training them on equity, rights of a girl child and self-esteem; helping them form youth groups and self help groups (SHGs) that can help them take on critical roles in their communities and finally linking them to service providers to fulfill larger goals.”
As many as 70% girls drop out of class IV and VI in Maharashtra. The project will motivate them to join open schools and mainstream them back into regular schools. 2,850 Strong Young Girls’ Groups and 14,250 SHGs will be formed. The project will be run and owned by the community with the adolescent girl at the centre. “The plan is to have each adolescent girl group to mature into a full-fledged counseling centre for the youth, dealing with issues related to unwed pregnancies, nutrition, anemia, STI/ HIV and child care” explained Nair
Financial inclusion, the ultimate goal
Financial inclusion is a theme around which the bank works. There are different ways of finding indigenous ways of tapping financial systems, developing linkages between informed systems and systems using commercial knowledge to make bigger impact. “India could be a country where Barclays might support SHGs” informed Rachael.
Unicef too does not believe in making financial loans available. “We don’t lend money. We create self-sustaining opportunities, build capacities and motivate communities to take the process forward. This is more sustaining and it ensures that once the NGO moves out, the initiative does not die down,” says Nair.
Taru Bahl was in Maharashtra at the invitation of the project organizers