Shambhavi Srivastava

Shambhavi is a Senior Research Manager at Sattva and brings in 8 years of experience in research and public policy projects in the sectors of rural livelihoods, women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion. Shambhavi brings with her strong expertise in quantitative and qualitative research methods using mixed-method approaches, statistical tools and experience with leading outreach and dissemination activities on the field and in the ecosystem. She has served as a Principal Investigator (PI) on numerous gender, public health, financial inclusion and rural livelihood projects.

Prior to Sattva, Shambhavi worked as Research Manager for Institute of Financial Management and Research (IFMR LEAD), India where she served as the PI and programme lead for policy projects in the Financial Inclusion vertical on multi-stakeholder projects in collaboration with partners such as DFID, Access Assist, SIDBI, Ministry of Finance and the University of Munich.

Shambhavi holds a Master of Arts degree in Cultural and Social Geography from the University of British Columbia, Canada, a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations and Political Science from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India and a Bachelors in Political Science from Lady Shriram Delhi University, India.

More than Money

Elderly self-help groups in rural areas provide more than just financial security.

National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in India defines Self Help Groups (SHGs) as “small economical homogenous affinity groups of rural poor, voluntarily formed to save and mutually contribute to a common fund to be lent to its members as per group decision.” The loans that the rural poor can avail of is utilized in a number of ways, including generation of income through entrepreneurial pursuits.

Earning a living, however, is not the sole reserve of under-60-year olds. Given their vulnerabilities, elderly people in villages need it just as much. In the last two decades, HelpAge India has pioneered the creation of Elder Self-Help Groups or ESHGs in rural India to provide livelihood support to the elderly. The success of this model has led to its adoption by the Ministry of Rural Development for the National Rural Livelihoods Mission in India, for 5,543 ESHGs, impacting 67,014 elders across 12 states in India. The ESHG members may save as low as an amount as INR 30 (USD 0.42) per month per person, and then pool their resources to inter-lend within their group of 10-20 people, eventually moving on to larger loans through financial linkages with banks. They may then individually or collectively engage in income generating activities, such as taking on the project of cooking the midday meal for children in the village school.

While ESHGs have potent financial impact on the lives of the aged, there are also some lesserknown social aspects that are harder to quantify and may often be empirical in nature. However, there is no denying the positive impact they have on the personal psyche and relationships of seniors.

Sattva_Insights_MoreThanMoney_AditiChatterjee

Increased inter-generational bonding
Travels into rural West Bengal brought us in touch with 10 such ESHGs, including a few 80-year-olds who walked into the ESHG meeting bent over crude walking sticks. They were too old to earn the INR 1 (less than 2 US cents) a day that they had to contribute to the collective savings fund. They proudly announced though, that their grandchildren gave them INR 1 a day from their own daily “pocket-money” of INR 5 so that the grandparents could be a part of the ESHGs. Though anecdotal in this instance, ESHGs have been known to increase intergenerational bonding within the family due to similar circumstances.

Improved status within the family
Old age is sometimes associated with familial neglect. However, ESHG members often enjoy improved status within their families. One of the reasons for this is that they are able to contribute to the family income through their own earnings via the ESHG. Even in the absence of such earnings, the elderly nominate family members who will be the recipient of their ESHG savings and the interest it accrues upon their demise. Having an inheritance to leave behind therefore also contributes to their improved social standing within the family.

Antidote to loneliness
Even with improved social status in the family, loneliness is a real concern for the aged. Amidst their own work and household chores, family members may have little time to spare to engage with the elderly folks in the house.

However, village elders who had become ESHG members said that they had organized outings to picnic spots and religious sites as a group – something they had never tried before. Others mentioned that when ill-health hampered their mobility, the whole group congregated close to their house for the weekly meetings so that they could be a part of it. Interestingly, the elderly having their own social circle led to decreased stress for the care-givers in the family too, and therefore often resulted in more harmonious family relationships.

Broadened horizons and collective action
Among the most remarkable effects of the ESHGs however, is the impact of exchange tours to other ESHGs. Not only does this expose members to wonders they had never experienced in their own lives (like travelling by train for the first time, or seeing running water flowing out of a tap), it also gets them acquainted with best practices of other groups. There have been reports of groups who almost doubled their contribution to the savings fund to provide small stipends for more destitute members. Dolon Mukherjee, a Ph.D. scholar in gerontology and a HelpAge India veteran, commented that ESHGs who had met such groups came back to their own villages and started to save INR 2 instead of INR 1 per month. The reason? To set up a parallel avenue of pensions for members of their ESHGs who did not have access to state pensions and social security benefits.

Elder Self-Help Groups have, therefore, not just helped the elderly financially, but also given them a new lease on their social and personal lives in their twilight years.
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This article was originally published in Impact Magazine and can be accessed here.

You can find more Insights from Sattva here.

To talk to us for collaborations or partnerships, you can write to us: impact@sattva.co.in

Minu Sagar

Minu leads Consulting Services (Implementation) initiatives in Bangalore, building capability of NGOs and similar organisations to enable them to multiply their impact on ground in a large scale, sustainable manner.

She started her career as a software development consultant with IBM and SAP. She then went on to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Management with Institute of Rural Management (IRMA). She then joined Coconut Development Board (CDB) as a consultant, working on capability building, training, establishing systems and processes, and monitoring and evaluation.

At Sattva she has worked with CSRs to design, implement and monitor flagship programmes.  She has worked with NGOs to define their overall strategy, build organisational and programmatic capabilities as well as support with fundraising strategy.

Minu is an engineering graduate from College of Engineering Trivandrum and has a Post Graduate degree in rural management from Institute of Rural Management (IRMA), Anand.

DIGITAL FINANCIAL INCLUSION

OBJECTIVE
A Mumbai-based financial services company wanted to design and implement a programme focused on women’s entrepreneurship development and digital financial inclusion across rural Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. We, Sattva Consulting, came in as knowledge partners to give further inputs on the programme design and strategy, as well as support in planning, implementation, monitoring & evaluation and reporting.

SATTVA’S APPROACH
The programme has a two-pronged strategy to enable the company reach its goal of empowering women in their households and communities alike. The first track involves mobilising and training 100 Digital Sakhis – women from the rural areas – in personal finance, digital financial literacy, leadership development and communication skills. These women in turn go out to train the larger community on same skill sets. Each Digital Sakhi has individual targets of reaching 1,000 rural community members which culminates to a total outreach of 1,00,000 rural population. The second track is focused on building the capacity of women entrepreneurs to help further develop their business. The first step was finding an implementing NGO with a background in enterprise development, financial inclusion and women empowerment with the ability to implement in the mandated geographies. After a thorough due diligence and selection process, we conducted a two-day co-creation workshop involving the financial services CSR team, business team and implementing NGO. The first day was focused on aligning all stakeholders on the aspirations, values and indicators of success for the programme, while on the second day we dived deep into the operational planning. This included open and honest conversations with all relevant stakeholders regarding the process of community mobilisation, batch sizes for women entrepreneurs, timelines, risks and mitigation measures among various other granular details. Once implementation began, spearheaded by the implementing NGO on the ground, Sattva conducted the programme management and M&E for the project duration and subsequent proposal development for phase two of the programme.

KEY LEARNINGS
This project successfully demonstrated the impact financial services companies can make through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives to do good for business and in turn, benefit the entire community. Our efforts as knowledge partners with end-to-end implementation support were found immensely useful by all stakeholders in helping drive this programme and moulding it to what it is today. In the end, the company was able to spread awareness on digital financial literacy and promote women’s enterprise development, while increasing their brand visibility on the ground in strategic geographies and strengthening their customer base.

OUTCOME
Reach:
● 100 Digital Sakhis trained on Digital Financial Literacy, Leadership and Communications
● 1000 women entrepreneurs upskilled in their respective trades, trained in enterprise development and digital financial literacy
● 1,00,000 rural population trained on personal finance and digital financial literacy
● Increase in income, knowledge and adoption of formal financial services
● Maharashtra: Pune, Osmanabad and Solapur districts
● Madhya Pradesh: Dhar and Barwani