1,811 marginalised people come under banking network
You could see the enthusiasm and curiosity in the faces of the people who thronged at the Shyamnagar Union Digital Centre in Satkhira on July 27 at the fair jointly organised by Strengthening Women’s Ability for Productive New Opportunities (SWAPNO) of UNDP and Bank Asia
It was mainly organised to raise awareness amongst the Satkhira population, one of the districts with the lowest per household monthly income, of the various financial services and products available to them and how they could access these digitally.
The hubbub surrounding the venue, with pink and blue posters lining the gateway and beautifully decorated booths, was further enhanced by a local theatre group performing on stage: singing, dancing and acting.
They were acting out a musical which portrayed the life-changing impact financial inclusion could have on one’s life, and many in the crowd, who could relate the story with that of their own, cheered the performance on.
All the din surrounded a celebration: the marking of how it was now easier than ever to access and use banking services thanks to the various digital financial channels available.
Razia Sultana, could not wait to tell her story after seeing the play. She shared how opening a bank account and saving through it helped her open her own kiosk.
“Life before that was very different. Whatever little money we had, we could not save since we did not have a way to manage it. And saving up enough to do something by myself as an entrepreneur seemed like a distant dream,” she told those present at the venue.
“Since then, I have come a long way. Now I can think of setting up other businesses as more banks are willing to finance my endeavours after seeing my success.”
Her story is one of the instances of empowerments through formalised financial inclusion, a rarity in rural Bangladesh.
A 2014 Intermedia survey found that only 5% of the population have a bank account and that this low number was not wholly due to lack of access but rather mostly because rural poor perceive the process and requirements for opening and operating bank accounts too complex or unaffordable.
As a result, such community engagement and awareness are important to break down these attitudinal barriers to financial inclusion.
The fair had Rocket and Bank Asia booths, where new accounts were being opened and all questions related to general or digital banking was being answered, so that more of the rural population could alleviate themselves from poverty.
Local administrators including the Union Chairmen, Upazila Vice Chairmen, social welfare representatives, women representatives and leaders of various other local NGOs participated in the campaign as advocates of financial inclusion.
The digital financial inclusion campaign organised at Shyamnagar was one amongst a series of three similar campaigns, the other two being in Burigoalini and Esswaripur Unions.
The first phase of the campaigns involved distribution of posters and leaflets showcasing new banking services and products through the Union Digital Centres and through field facilitators which began in late February.
Since the beginning of the awareness campaigns from beginning of February until end of June, more than 1,811 marginalised people have opened accounts with Bank Asia in Satkhira.