As one of BSR’s local partners in India, I have been closely involved with the HERfinance pilot, funded by the Walt Disney Company, the GE Foundation, and others, since its inception and launch in late 2012. Based on the HERproject model, HERfinance trains factory employees to provide financial literacy education to their peers in the workplace and aims to link them to relevant financial products.

After months of incubation and preparation, HERfinance’s first-ever training for peer educators was conducted last month at a garment factory in Gurgaon. It was my privilege to be present as an observer and assessor.

The scheduled three-hour session covered the first two training modules, which focus on financial planning and budgeting. The lead trainer, an expert in financial education from our NGO partner in India, used simple, relatable stories and case studies to communicate the content. For example, she underlined the importance of recording and budgeting for even minor daily expenses by illustrating how consuming a few cups of tea a day quickly adds up to a much larger monthly sum. Confident delivery, simple language, and interactive tools made it an effective learning experience.  

Despite a shy start, workers warmed up to the session and started engaging openly and confidently once the conversation moved into dreams, personal aspirations, and financial planning. From building a home, to providing education for siblings and children, to planning for a daughter’s wedding or travels around the world, each participant spoke about his or her wish with fierce passion and hope. Understanding that savings and planning are vital in making their dreams come true, both men and women participated freely and showed a keen interest in the subject of budgeting.

I was particularly impressed by the trainer’s constant encouragement and focused efforts in building confidence among the participants—who are eventually responsible for disseminating these lessons to their colleagues. When reminded of this responsibility, participants expressed apprehension to teach others, as they felt unqualified to answer queries on this subject. This is a justified fear, and one that I am confident will disappear with practice, peer support, and a better understanding of the subject matter. This has been BSR’s experience with the HERproject health program model, as demonstrated by recently published “Our Voices” testimonials.

Overall, the first training was a superb start to HERfinance, and I was inspired by the trainees’ ease and openness. This burgeoning confidence makes me certain that this methodology will work as well as it does with the HERproject health program. While I was always aware of the need for financial literacy during the session, I also saw the want from the workers for financial knowledge and information to help them achieve their dreams.

Meghna Talwar is an independent consultant for BSR based in India. She supports the implementation of HERfinance by conducting research on financial inclusion, helping select and monitor an NGO implementing partner for the program, and participating in a needs assessment at participating factories.

Posted on 2013 June 19. #blog, #herfinance

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