Tata-Dhan Academy: PDM

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Programme in Development Management

Microfinance: An inspiration for stakeholders for the development of the country

By Shanti Gupta

Before the first session of Microfinance for Poverty Reduction (MFPR)—a one-credit course in the second term of the Programme in Development Management—the students were all given a packet containing 70 pages of reading for the first session. I though to myslef, What does our faculty want us to do? How is it possible to read so much material?

Just then, Mrs. A Umarani came to meet with the students. With a beautiful smile she asked, “Have you all got the MFPR materials?”
Looking at the materials, I replied, “This is for one session? Or two sessions? Or three sessions?”

She smiled again and said, “No, no! This is only for one session. And, come prepared! There will be a small quiz.”

Oh! I thought. Now I am going to get a zero in this quiz. How will it be possible to read 70 pages and come with good preparation. That evening, I told myself, “This is first class of the second term; if I will not go with proper preparation, it would not be a good way to start the term.” I studied hard and made notes. I did my best, but I was still intimidated by the thought of the quiz and class discussions.

The next morning, Mrs. Umarani walked into the class and said, “Good morning everybody. Have you gone through the article?”

Silence! Not a single student said “Yes, mam!”

Mrs. Umarani smiled (her smile almost made me forget that she had given me 70 pages to read just the day before) and started to look towards me. I quickly said, “I got a chance to go through the material….”

Mrs. Umarani continued, “No problem. Today there will be a different type of quiz. Divide yourselves into two groups.”

After we got into our groups, she began asking questions from the MFPR materials. It was really exciting—kind of like a quiz show. For each right answer, the group got 10 marks. If the group was unable to answer the question, the other group would be given a chance to answer for 5 marks. I was very excited, and remembered my school-days; I remembered how excited I would get about getting marks for anything.

Fortunately, my team got 110 marks—twice that of the other group. (I say “fortunately” because part of this was from remembering what I had read the night before, and the other part was by making guesses.)

But, in retrospect, the quiz session was not just for the sake of a quiz. It was, instead, a very interesting way to help everyone get to a common entry point into understanding microfinance and self-help groups. In the process of the quiz, we also discussed the history of microfinance, so it was also a very information-rich interactive session where every second is full of knowledge; it’s just up to us to grab the opportunity to learn.

That was just the first session.

Since that time, I have learned a lot about self-help groups and microfinance institutions. I have come to understand how the microfinance concept has evolved. I have also come to understand the role and importance of microfinance in reducing poverty with the help of case studies, discussions, and lectures. The case studies are not just for us to understand the case and situations of the family; sometimes we have to take decisions as a managing director of microfinance institution. These cases have given me an opportunity to think of myself as a development professional working with the community. In almost every case, our group discusses together and takes a decision. Nice experience!

Apart from these things, all of the students are very lucky because Mrs. Umarane openly shares her experience; she is not only a faculty, but also an experienced practitioner, having many years of experience in promoting self-help groups. When she first started her work with microfinance in 1990, the microfinance savings concpet was still in its infancy. Furthermore, she faced many difficulties due to challenges like poor transportation facilities. Still, she had the appetite to learn and desire to succeed, and at last feels she can now say “Today, I am very confident, and that is only due to my field experience and being with the community; I have developed my own methods to work with the community.”

Our lessons even go on outside of the classroom. On 29 January 2011, the PDM 11 students went to Narayanpuram village. It was our first field visit for the MFPR course and the objective was to understand different saving practices, particularly indigenous practices. Saving is not a new thing, but the way that people have saved throughout history has changed, and some indigenous savings methods—which might be useful even today—are being lost. I studied three families with my batch mates. From this field visit I understood that saving does not mean only money; there are many storable assets, for instance food grains and jewelry, that could also be considered as savings.

One of the villagers who shared her savings practices with us. The elder generation is likely to save in different forms than we do today. In fact, for many of them, formal savings might be very intimidating, or not even an option!

Now, I am able to understand many of the issues and challenges in microfinance institutions, particularly with the microfinance models in India. In the MFPR course, we’re almost at the halfway point, and are entering into community-based microfinance models. It has been an interesting exploration so far to see that if we want to bring changes and development at the macro level, we need to work on the micro level development of the country. Microfinance has changed the lives of people throughout India, and by working at the micro level directly with the society, we can do miracles.

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Filed under: PDM 11, , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. rajesh kumar says:

    ours was a thick book………and a lot of handouts, I don’t know why they were called Handouts when they were as good as a book…….and……yes..every night used to be Shivratri for us….this rigor pays when You actually go to work in the field.

    Rajesh Kumar
    PDM 7

    • Shanti Gupta says:

      Hello sir,
      Now we also study at night but it is not like a Shivratri but we enjoy reading and same time we get involve in article.most of the time we present case studies with dramas and other intractive things even sometimes we download some material from internet also. reading this articles are really exciting and knowledgeable.thanks for sharing your experience, tell me what else your batch was doing.

      Shanti Gupta
      PDM 11

      • shanti gupta says:

        Ananda,

        Now I got different perspective of micro finance and with this same title I can write another blog. Micro finance : An Inspiration for all stakeholders for development of country, this blog I have written in the beginning of second term, after 5 session. Now I can feel the difference in my understanding, I have decided to write another blog with same title.
        Can I write with same title or I should give new title to my blog.

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