Helping Indian Women on International Women’s Day
Dia Vikas Capital was established in 2008 in India as a Non Banking Finance Company.to help Indian women start a small business and to fill the gap of social investment in the Indian microfinance sector. Dia Vikas Capital is now a subsidiary of Opportunity International which is a non-profit organisation that uses a business approach to solve the problem of poverty.
KC Ranjani, MD of Dia Vikas Capital, a micro finance institution which has partnered with Opportunity International, visited Australia recently and along with former Premier and Heffron MP Kristina Keneally attended many events in Sydney and Melbourne on the occasion of International Women’s Day. These events provided the opportunity to hear how women alongside their families and communities, are being empowered through microfinance loans and opportunities in business and government. They also shared their own personal experiences about how opportunities in business and government have helped empower them and how they are now using their influence to empower poor women globally to realise their potential and break free from the cycle of poverty.
KC Ranjani spoke to many women in Australian corporate world and highlighted how businesses have the potential to change people’s lives. She also commented on the importance of the role of charitable organisations in alleviating poverty.
During her Australian trip, KC Ranjani spoke to Indian Herald and said, “Dia Vikas Capital is a social investment fund supported by 15 partners across India and reaches out to 1.2 million families. We did the risk capital analysis and our partners were able to leverage upon that valuation. We started with a 31 million dollars given to us by Opportunity International Australia and we got 3 million dollars from Netherlands based Development Agency CORDAID. We supported 15 micro finance companies with equity and debt funds. Companies like non banking were given equity and government bodies were given subordinated debt. 161 million USD worth of value has been created by our 15 partners.”
“On International Women’s Day on March 8th we contacted various corporates and connected with them to help build support for our activities. The tour started from Monday, 5th March in Brisbane, and then on Tuesday in Sydney and we met Delloite and PWC, Fynsia on Wednesday, also visited Australia India Institute in Mebourne followed by more meetings in Sydney with high net worth individuals and AIBC” she added.
KC Ranjani worked as a Deputy General Manager for a bank in India and in 2007 she took a sabbatical to get involved in more community based activities. Says Ranjani, “I was involved in developing micro financing plans and developing India strategy for many foreign agencies. It was then that I was approached and I decided to adopt this as my full time job with a passion.”
Ranjani was also highly appreciate of the support her organisation has received from Australia and spoke highly about the recent visit of Kristina Keneally to India. “Kristina Keneally and the team visited a lot of grass root level workers in India. She really connected with them and hugged them and talked to them. The visit made her aware of the needs of the workers and the tremendous impact this is making in India. She has helped us connect to many donors and helped create a big awareness for us. Women’s desire for caring is the same even if the women are from different cultures and different segments of the society. The caring and nurturing feeling of mothers is the same in all environments and all countries. Kristina Keneally spoke about her kids and her family and made an immediate connection with the women in India. We are focussed on building our work and our work will show up. Australia has tremendously supported us.”
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Indian Herald also spoke to Kristina Keneally about her involvement with Opportunity International. Kristina Keneally said, “We take an additional steps to create business opportunities for women in India, help them build and transform their lives and help them generate income for their families. The program is very successful and it works based on a little contribution by the people. 94% of Opportunity International finance is taken up by women and it has a very healthy 97% repayment rate. When I was in India I could understood what we could do. We are offering bigger loans and help grow businesses and women are keen to take it up. There is hope and optimism in women and I realised first hand how businesses could transform lives of these people.”
When asked about the supply of Australian aid to India, she said, “Indian government has over a period of time made it clear that they want to become a donor country and not an aid receiving country. Australian focus is going to change and it is likely to adopt a more targeted approach. India will receive less money from Australia as foreign aid but bulk of the aid will however come from non government organisations like the Steve Waugh Foundation and Opportunity international. The type of practical and hands on work done by these Australian organisations is very important.”
When asked how was it to see people earning 2 dollars a day and if it too much to bear for her, Kristina Keneally said, “Extreme poverty looks very challenging and the environment is completely different than foreign settings. Women I met were incredibly hard working functional families without any money. When they were offered money they seized on the opportunity. I don’t want to romanticise the poor but it is so inspiring to see what they are doing back in India.”
“I felt captivated when I first met these women in India. I was not certain initially if I would make a connection, but soon realised that we had things in common and that broke the barrier. We soon realised the common ground, we were mothers and delighted to have kids and were seeking better future for our kids and had high hopes for the future of our children. We were also bound by the desire to see our kids have better standards of life,” she added.
When asked about her ideas to empower women in third world Kristina Keneally said, “There should be access to education, access to financial capital and self determination and the ability to have social and financial resources to make decisions and put them into action.”
Kristina Keneally said she was thrilled to experience the joy of some of the women in India. “Some of the ladies we met had never seen their name in print until their application for microfinance was filed. They were very surprised and upon signing their name for the first time reaffirmed their identity and made them feel empowered. I also saw them doing their home chores and sending their daughters to school. It was great to see some girls who were the first in their families to get education.”