March 30, 2011
School of Business, Coimbatore
International Women’s Day this year was extra special. It was also the 100th anniversary of this global celebration.
To mark the occasion, advocacy organization Women Deliver announced a global list of a hundred most inspiring people who have delivered for girls and women.
Included on the list were Kenyan Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathai; Former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet and US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Ela Bhatt represented India. Having founded a women’s trade union SEWA in 1972, Ela was able to positively impact the lives of nearly a million women and that of their families through micro-lending and women-run cooperatives in India.
“I have worked with thousands of women and their way of working, thinking, behaving is so future-oriented. A woman is a better conservator, better preserver and a better future,” said Ela, sharing her views on the occasion.
Meanwhile, ensuring a better future for hundreds of rural women, Prof. Shobhana Madhavan of the Amrita School of Business at Coimbatore addressed a gathering, cautioning against the taking of loans from private micro-finance institutions (MFIs).
“Rural women are very vulnerable to being exploited by private MFIs that offer ready loans to the needy,” she said. “These private MFIs, whose interest rates are not yet regulated by the Government, often charge very high interest rates, touching even 70 to 100 percent per year.”
“Women borrowers, who are semi-literate, often do not understand that they are being charged usurious interest rates. Agents of these private MFIs have been known to threaten women borrowers and shame them in public if they do not repay their loans on time.”
Prof. Shobhana’s words were translated into Tamil by second-year MBA student Kiruthiga Balakumar. The duo were asked to speak to the gathering at Mahalir Mela, an event organized by Shanti Ashram, on the occasion of International Women’s Day in Coimbatore.
Shanti Ashram is an NGO that works in the area of integrated rural development. Prof. Shobhana and her students have lent their consulting expertise to several women-run cooperatives at the behest of this NGO.
What motivated the duo to reach out to the rural women on International Women’s Day?
“Kiruthiga is a student who is interested in social issues,” shared Prof. Shobhana.
And herself? “I like working with the community, and incorporate such experiences in the classroom when I can. It is important for MBA students to have insights of such developmental issues also.”
Indeed. In fact, Prof. Shobana has won many accolades for her sustained community outreach efforts. We congratulate her for the good work.