BENGALURU: In a world where teenage entrepreneurs have begun to sense opportunities, Anaya Jethanandani has set herself apart by choosing to uplift the women around her. The 17-year-old Bengalurean, passionate about economics, has been working towards helping marginalised women find financial inclusion in an otherwise patriarchal world.
The Grade 11 student of Indus International School, Sarjapura, founded FINWIN, a not-for-profit initiative that helps bring financial literacy and inclusion to domestic helpers, factory workers, unemployed women, and others.
According to Anaya, FINWIN’s inception followed an incident with her family cook, who had come home one day in tears. “The concentration on this particular community is due to an instance where our cook, Anita, had one day come home crying because her abusive husband was spending all the money she had saved. She did not have any control over her own finances or a bank account, despite being the sole breadwinner in the family,” says the teenager.
Anita had no freedom to spend the money available to her, and her two sons were discouraged from attending school due to their father’s aversion towards getting an education. “All the money went directly to her husband’s bank account and she had no freedom to spend it. After we were able to open a bank account for her and teach her how to save, spend and budget her money, it helped her leave her husband and educate her sons,” says Anaya.
The incident was a wakeup call on the importance of financial literacy, especially for women coming from marginalised backgrounds. Anaya had already published a course on online teaching platform, Udemy. “It took me at least five months of research to curate the course and its modules. Through it, I learned a lot about financial literacy, especially on government schemes. Many of my parents’ friends also work in the field, so I was able to work with them to get a better idea,” she says.
Accordingly, Anaya started FINWIN in July 2021, aiming to bridge the gap between gender and finance in Indian society through workshops and other services. “FINWIN’s concentration is on literacy and inclusion, because my idea is that if literacy and inclusion work together, it truly leads to financial independence. I cover concepts of budgeting, saving, tracking and spending, as well as information on government schemes, what they are eligible for and loans. Information on how they can protect themselves from scams is particularly important, especially when aspiring to be an independent woman,” she adds. Anaya also works with several NGOs, like Women of Worth (WOW), where she has conducted workshops on spending money for menstrual hygiene.
So far, Anaya has helped over 400 women with access to financial literacy and inclusion. “Most of them are domestic workers, especially in urban societies. However, while working with organisations, we visit slums and are in touch with many other marginalised women,” she says.
In addition, Anaya also helps women set up bank accounts and apply to government schemes. Due to her proximity of working with the women, Anaya says that the issue involves not only financial literacy, but ensuring that the women are aware of their rights in demanding proper wages and breaking away from previously held misconceptions.
“Many have grown up in families where their brothers and fathers are in charge of the household money. Mothers, sisters, and wives do not have any control of the bank accounts. There was no thought of ‘I should have a bank account’, because that is just how it works for them and how a bank account is defined. A lot of women, I had noticed, also had abusive husbands that obviously misuse their money,” she says. Despite these struggles, Anaya shows no signs of stopping as she has already begun the new year by continuing to conduct workshops around the city.
FINWI CLUB AT SCHOOL
In August, Anaya was a finalist of the 2022 Dr Siva Kumari Middle Years Programme (MYP) Student Innovators’ Grant. In addition to receiving the grant, Anaya built a network of like-minded peers around the world. “FINWIN is an initiative that doesn’t actually focus on funding as it’s more about using resources that are available to us. However, the grant helped in marketing and connecting with more communities that I would not have otherwise reached. In terms of conducting workshops, I started a FINWIN club at my school where I train student volunteers on conducting workshops. I’ve also reached out to several government schools, where I teach the girls on financial literacy, in the hopes that we are able to build a larger network of women who understand their rights,” she says.
A lot of women had their Aadhaar and PAN cards linked to their husband’s or father’s phone numbers, posing a challenge in opening bank accounts or applying to government schemes. “It is a big challenge to process and update all these things, before they could even open their bank accounts or apply for any government schemes, which is something happening across the board for these women. When we highlight the numerous schemes available to them, it comes as a major shock, but also comforts them to know that they can rely on the government to help improve their lives. Though it takes time due to the amount of documentation required, those who are able, find it very helpful,” Anaya says.