The International Women’s Conference held in 1975 at Mexico City brought together women leaders from different parts of the world. A group of women shared at that meeting that poor women are economically active but do not have access to financial resources to enhance their business. Women’s World Banking (WWB) was created in 1980 to address this unmet need.
Friends of Women’s World Banking, India, (FWWB-I) is one of the first few institutions created as an affiliate of Women’s World Banking in 1982 with an aim to empower poor and asset-less rural and urban women by improving their participation in sustainable livelihood activities through access to financial services. It is a non-profit organisation with a vision to weave together threads of hope and security in the lives of women among the lowest rung of the economic and social ladder through its Micro Finance programme.
During the initial seven years of its operations i.e. from 1982 -1989, FWWB’s activities were limited to providing loan guarantees for poor women in the state of Gujarat. Thereafter, in 1989, FWWB’s leadership decided to extend its area of operations and to promote micro finance in different parts of the country. After an intensive study of existing credit-delivery models, and best practices in micro Finance in India and neighbouring countries, FWWB started training NGOs in setting up micro finance programmes. As a result of these trainings, several NGOs initiated micro finance programmes using a variety of credit delivery mechanisms. These NGOs, however, were unable to access commercial funds for their micro finance programmes in the early years. To make loan funds available to these organizations, FWWB borrowed its first loan of Rs.1.5 million in 1990.
FWWB’s Mission is to empower and uplift the status of women by harnessing their entrepreneurial abilities and creating a means of sustainable employment and social security in their already vulnerable lives. FWWB assists in the formation and strengthening of people’s organizations and bringing them into mainstream of the economy and thereby participating in the process of nation building. FWWB-I is committed to building a society based on social justice where women are catalysts of social change.
Advance and promote direct participation of poor women and ensure as well as increase their access to financial services through appropriate and sustainable delivery mechanisms like providing loan guarantees or other securities to banks for advancing loans to such women.
Revolving Loan Fund was evolved in response to growing needs of small savings groups, to encourage to build their own resource base, develop fund management skill and provide fund support for undertaking sustainable employment generating activities aimed towards asset formation and increasing the income levels of poor women. NGO’s Federations of SHG’s, Co-operatives and women’s groups belonging to the FWWB network can raise loans from this fund and extend credit support to their members, where the supporting NGO’s also assume the responsibility of ensuring repayment. FWWB’s current outreach has reached to 197,947 from 93 organisations across 10 states.
Appropriate & affordable insurance products were not in place as mainstream insurance service providers, ignored the need of the poor. The insurance industry opened for private sector in the year 1999. The ‘Obligations of Insurers to Rural/Social Sectors’ came into force in 2000 and were further amended in 2002. This gave an impetus to the micro insurance sector. Private companies were required to expand their business in the rural sector and this brought innovations into the micro insurance market, in terms of new products and simplified claim procedures.
The insurance industry has recognised the Microfinance institutions / NGO as an intermediary for micro insurance. A significant portion of the Social and Rural Insurance, which is obligatory under IRDA regulations, is done through micro finance organisations.
FWWB’s is a facilitator to the partner MFIs in the Micro Insurance Project. Orientation on micro insurance, exposure visits, linkages with insurance companies, technical inputs and training, dissemination of information on micro insurance sector and policy intervention are areas where FWWB has a role to play.
FWWB’s Capacity Building Programme has evolved in response to the needs of its partner organizations and is designed to build the capacity of women at the grassroot level to own and manage Institution and also to build the capacity of the promoters to help them manage the activity of providing financial services efficiently, to the poor. The objectives of the Capacity Building Programme of FWWB are :
2.1 Training and Workshops : FWWB’s Capacity building focuses on two major areas,
Workshops: Workshops also form an important part of the capacity building programme where not only the partner organisation but also sometimes the women at the grass root level get a much wider platform to understand and interact and share their experiences and learn from each other. They can discuss and debate on issues related to the sector and this also helps in exploring the potential in the sector.
2.2 Technical Assistance Visits
Technical Assistance Visits (TAV’s) form part of FWWB’s long-term strategy of institution building. The focus is on interaction with partner institutions on a one-to-one basis. These visits are organised and conducted on a continuous basis and help in building capacities of organizations in areas that are technical, including that of their operational aspects.
TAV’s are essentially need based interventions and function with the specific objective of streamlining operations and helping the partner organisations to graduate through the institution building process i.e. from General partner (GP) category to the Institutional Development Partner (IDP) category and finally to the financially sustainable Big Partner (BP) category.
2.3 Exposure Visits
Exposure visits are one of the several capacity building inputs provided by FWWB to its partner organisations. The main objective of FWWB’s exposure visits is learning by other’ experiences.
Institution building of network organisations is one of the core objectives of FWWB, in which Research and Documentation is an integral part of FWWB’s strategy towards this goal. Research and Documentation is essential to understand and assess the clients, their needs and demands. FWWB conducts Impact Studies to understand the client’s actual needs, which in turn help the organization to tailor their services accordingly, manage risk and maximize impact.
Partners of FWWB:
To meet its mission of making financial services accessible to poor women, FWWB-I has networked with Partner Organisations who provide micro finances to women. Through its Funding Partners it reaches important national and international development agencies that are active in the micro finance sector, including donors, bankers and academic organizations, to expand, support and strengthen its network.
FWWB has a network of 95 partner organisations to which she provides support and assistance. Being an apex institution, it strives to build a strong network of organisations for which it provides Technical Assistance and small loan support to start up organisations. Based on their performance and ability to manage finds, they graduate to the Institutional Development (ID) category.
The organisations in ID category are expected to have a clear strategy outlining growth plan for the next five years with effective systems. The ID partners with good performance can further graduate to the Big Partner (BP) category.
BP’s are expected to have a loan portfolio of over Rs. 5 Crores, clear business plan, clear growth strategy, good operating systems and good track record as loan clients of FWWB-I. The Following are the criteria for the three categories of partnership :-
BP’s Big Partners
IDP’s Institutional Development Partners
GP’s General Partners
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