From Nepalgunj it took us two hours to get to Kisan Microfinance’s (KMF) branch in Bhajani, Kailali. At the branch, as we waited for Centre Chiefs from various centers to arrive, it was evident that KMF were focused not only on promoting tablet banking but also on providing financial literacy to its clients. “We just printed these flipcharts on various subject such as savings, remittance, household budgeting, so that we could take it to the center meetings and discuss the same with the clients,” said KMF’s branch manager at Bhajani.
As we were discussing the effectiveness of the tablets that were being used at the center meetings, Reeta Kumari Chaudhary, one of the center chiefs – who had braved the almost flooded river (it was monsoon season) – arrived at this meeting. Similarly, Seema Chaudhary, Anita Chaudhary and Tikeshwori Rawal, arrived one by one, with tablets in their hands.
28-year-old Reeta Kumari Chaudhary was appointed as the Center Chief by KMF almost 2 years ago. Between handling the member’s various issues to using a tablet, initially Reeta was a bit apprehensive. But having a large joint family made her experience a bit easier. “The experience of living with a family of 28 members has come in handy while maintaining the center and its members,” she says with a smile. Before working as the Center Chief, Reeta was a homemaker and primarily spent her time doing household chores and handling her small tailoring business which she operated from home. “Now as the Center Chief I am handling more responsibilities and feel confident with the work I do.” She also adds, “The tablet has been extremely helpful for me as it makes recording of transactions easier and more efficient. Using the tablet has also given me a new found confidence.” From the loan received from KMF, Reeta has also been able to establish a small hotel with her husband. “The business is doing good and it helps me send my two sons to school,” she says.
Similarly, another Center Chief, Seema Chaudhary also uses the tablet to conduct her meetings. “I received a training on the use of tablet and on performing transactions” she shares. She found it easy to use and is very happy to have the opportunity given by KMF to lead the group. Based on her experience Seema feels that the most important aspect while introducing a new technology is to get the people to trust it. “Traditionally passbooks were provided to the members for records of their transactions but slowly, I managed to get the members to trust the tablet,” says Seema.
Likewise, 23-year olds Anita Chaudhary and Tikeshwori Rawal also share about the positive changes KMF has brought into their lives. While Anita runs a computer institute with the help from my father-in-law Tikeshwori has her hands full. “I have a 4-year old daughter and I am currently pursuing my Bachelors in Education from Mahunyal Multipal Campus in Bhajani. On top of this, I also handle two different centers of KMF,” says Tikeshwori proudly.
Traditionally Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) hold center meetings at local, convenient locations. However, the practice is to conduct the loan and savings transactions manually during the center meeting. The payment is collected from the client and the amount is recorded in his/her pass book as well as the bank’s books as a receipt. With 25+ clients at one center meeting, this process can take 1-2 hours per meeting for the loan officer and about the same time for entering this data into a computer back at the office. This leaves little time for other activities, including financial literacy.
But Sakchyam is committed to providing access to finance in the most remote and unserved parts of Nepal by equipping bank and non-bank agents such as Reeta, Seema, Anita and Tikeshwori with technology to increase efficiency and make room for other activities during the group meetings. And this innovative service has been successful in not only making the meetings more efficient, but has also contributed to raising the confidence of women in the community.
Text & Photo by Ayusha Nirola, Sakchyam