1) Learning from Women Leaders in Microfinance
The School conducted a study on Women’s Leadership in Microfinance which explored women leaders’ vision and methods of taking forward microfinance programs and in shaping the microfinance sector. The study examined the issues of leadership in women headed microfinance institutions and issues connected with layers of leadership within the micro finance organization and community microfinance institutions. The school interviewed five women leaders along with one leader they have nurtured, encouraged and shaped in their respective organization. The study documented issues like their vision, their learning from each other, why did they choose the particular leader for nurturing; their strengths and what are the aspects that they admire to each other. It also addressed the value of nurturing women’s leadership in the interest of carrying out microfinance program efficiently and effectively.
Also in West Bengal to understand the issues of leadership, a need assessment study on leadership issues was conducted for the leaders of Self-Help Group Promotional Forum (SHGPF). Findings from the study were used in developing training modules focusing on ‘Leadership Development Program’ and was used in training of Trainers in West Bengal for middle level staff and Heads of small MFIs and NGO-MFIs and women leaders themselves.
2) SHGs in Gujarat - Patterns and Pointers: Case study of Three Organizations
The study analysed the health of SHGs in terms of institutional, financial, and capacity building capacity of three organizations in Gujarat.
On the institutional aspects the study focused on issues such as member’s attendance in meeting, penalty for absenteeism, process of decision making, process of rotation, role of office bearer in financial transaction, rules of internal lending etc. Main observation of the study is that when the main focus of the organization is only credit and savings, then the SHGs loses its focus in long run. On the other hand when the approach is more integrated, such as ‘livelihood finance approach’ of SEWA and impacts on various aspects of poor women’s life then SHGs take on a different meaning, which is more sustainable and enduring. The study recommended that for SHGs to have marked and sustained impact on poverty it is necessary for SHGs to adopt a more encompassing approach with various community based organizations and programs by laying far greater focus on processes, capacity building of members and convergence with various on-going government programs.
3) Perspective paper on " From Transactions to Transformations in Microfinance: Collapsing the divide between the Economic and Social Approach”
This perspective paper shows that there are two kinds of ways the present microfinance sector can be seen, the transaction approach and the transformatory approach. The paper concluded that the microfinance sector needs to take into account factors that can move it towards the transformatory potential it has. It will otherwise remain transactory with inadequate understanding of the outcomes of this intervention upon the lives of the poor. The main recommendation of the paper was:
There is need for the microfinance sector to fill in the missing piece in the business model framework, that of the financial sustainability of the poor household to improve their overall resilience to risks and shocks. The financial sustainability of poor household requires stabilization, maintenance and self sufficiency
Household sustainability can be better built if programs empower women by design. The link between financial sustainability, poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment is important and interdependent in nature.
Women’s empowerment lies in their access to financial products that can help them to build assets and secure their future.
1) Research Study “A Dignified Retirement for the Working Poor: Compulsions and Strategies for Scaling up the Micro-Pension Model”
In continuation of its work on the thematic area of developing, empowering and securing the lives of poor women; and to discuss the potential and possibilities of micro pension, the school conducted the above study. The study was conducted at Ahmedabad city in Gujarat.
2) Life histories of women in Microfinance "Narratives from West Bengal and Maharashtra"
The idea behind the research study was to talk to women clients participating in microfinance / micro-credit programs to ascertain how these have made a difference to their lives. The research also sought to ascertain the effect of these trainings on the lives of the women members. The study selected women Respondent from two organizations: Chaitanya in Maharashtra and Village Welfare Society in West Bengal.
The study observed that microfinance and micro credit has played a very important role in their lives as it has helped them to build a perspective and have realized their existence despite having to take loans either to assist their husbands or family. It is noted that women, based on their age women have been very supportive to their families in terms of giving economic support and building assets.
3) UNDP Pilot research study "Understanding Financial Inclusion from Community Microfinance Women Leaders"
Indian School of Microfinance for Women was approached by UNDP to conduct a pilot qualitative research study with the purpose of ascertaining and understanding the financial world and notions of financial inclusion of women leaders in microfinance programs with the focus on poor communities. The main aim of the study was to facilitate and draw voices from the field particularly from community women leaders participating in microfinance programs and from the bankers. These voices were expected to inform about realities on the ground and indicate necessary policy level dialogue and change. Information was gathered from women leaders in self help groups and joint liability groups in Jaunpur, Mirzapur, Sant Ravidas Nagar through Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and individual interviews of women leaders. Bankers from the region were also interviewed.
4) Paper on "Savings of women in poverty: Managing Pressure, Prediction and Planning"
Women in poverty play a vital role in a household, where, they not only have to contribute economically to the household but also work as care takers of the family. They are overburdened by various kinds of pressures. Women in poverty balance and manage between three Ps, Pressure, Prediction and Planning. They face the pressure of meeting their needs and covering expenditures within their income. Hence, it is essential to understand the life cycle needs of a household as well as the life cycle of their livelihoods which will allow identifying the risk pockets and their vulnerabilities which in-turn will help in developing appropriate financial planning.
“Informal saving can be risky but the fact that it continues shows that the women can and do save and have the capacity to save and if they are motivated, facilitated and guided properly, they can do it better and have a more secured access to their saved amount. What is important is that the saving services should be linked to cash flow and it should be offered at the door step’