Successful Trainings on Financial and Digital Literacy funded by GRÓ GEST in Sindh, Pakistan

18 March 2024
Successful Trainings on Financial and Digital Literacy funded by GRÓ GEST in Sindh, Pakistan

In the summer of 2023, Sonal Dhanani, GEST alumna of 2022, was awarded a grant of €9,700 from the 2023 GRÓ GEST March 8 Fund for her local lead role in the project Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion Advocacy Hub, a catalyst project led by Women’s World Banking, with the objective of accelerating progress in women’s digital financial inclusion. Ms. Dhanani is the founder of Parindey; a social enterprise working to build resilient communities through wellness, peace building, and mental health programs in Pakistan.

With the support of GRÓ GEST, Ms. Dhanani and Parindey led the implementation of the project in the Tharparkar district of the Sindh province in southeastern Pakistan, with local women and minority women as the primary beneficiaries. They trained 60 women through the creation of a Women’s Innovation Lab, as well as through digital and financial literacy workshops. This was in addition to Parindey’s signature menstrual and mental health awareness sessions which empowers local women to break free of traditional income cycles.

The project ran from July 2023 to March 2024. Read more about the project below and watch the short doc:

Video by Muhammad Faheem - Mehrdar Arts and Productions.

Isolated from Socio-Economic Development

Gender inequality in Pakistan is evident across several development markers such as literacy, workforce participation, land ownership, and more. Moreover, there are prevalent social biases against women and girls, which affect their access to livelihoods, as well as to food and nutrition. Sindh, a province in the southeastern region of Pakistan, is among the lowest ranked provinces in Pakistan on the 2021 Human Development Report. In this province, the Tharparkar (or just Thar) district ranked 109th out of 114 surveyed districts. It is also ranked among the ten worst districts for HDI growth.

In the current era, digital literacy has become an essential requirement for women to access education, employment opportunities, and equitable resources. As an increasing number of sectors transition to online platforms in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, women who lack access and ability to navigate digital devices and training are at a disadvantage.

Women and minority women in Tharparkar (approximately 40% of the population) are isolated from socio-economic development and are generally enclosed within the four walls of their homes, where they are sometimes subjected to gender-based violence (domestic violence, forced conversions, sexual violence etc). They are often illiterate, or with only basic education. Many of them have never had jobs and lack communication skills and exposure. For such women to break the income cycle, take loans from banks, or manage a business is challenging. A needs assessment preceding the activities on the ground in Thar found that while many of the women owned smartphones, they had limited ability and knowledge to operate them without the help of family members. Only one of the women participants had a bank account.

Digital and Financial Literacy

The goal of the project was to contribute to women’s digital and financial literacy through the Thar Innovation Lab, a process of immersive capacity-building workshops for leveraging digital platforms. These interventions were meant to heighten the awareness of women participants, empowering them to assert their agency and address their personal needs with confidence.

During the project, additional smartphones were provided to the members of the Thar Innovation Lab, who typically come from poorer households. Members then attended several sessions in a Financial Literacy Module on basic concepts of financial management. This included information about the banking system, accessing loans, insurance, and government schemes for financial assistance of the urban poor.

Following this module, a Digital Literacy Module taught women the basics of navigating smartphones, using the internet on their phones, and using Instagram, Facebook, and e-commerce sites for sustaining an online business.

Moreover, Parindey ran both a menstrual health and mental health awareness session and provided donations of hygiene kits for the participants of the project.

As Thar is a desert and there was an extreme shortage of water in the region, Parindey and team, with support of other donors, installed a solar water pump in the community. This was in addition to planned project activities.

Changing the Story

Following the training on digital and financial literacy, gender sensitisation sessions for both women and men in the community were held. Here the focus was on enhancing gender equity and create an enabling environment for women to pursue their livelihoods following the training.

The trainings enabled women members to make full use of the opportunities offered by Government schemes to set up their small businesses together and be able to earn incomes and make profits. It enabled participants to break the cycle of dependency and claim economic and financial equity. In the end of the project every participant had a Easypaisa and Jazzcash account.

In the words of local project leader Ms. Dhanani, “in the culture of Sindh, we have seen that once women are able to have a skill and a tool through which to channel her skill, she can generate income, have a larger say in the family and society. This changes the story of entire villages because this one woman with a tool creates a network of women.”

Feedback from the participating women highlighted an enhanced ability to manage finances, understand loans and sources, and usage of digital platforms as key learnings. They expressed enthusiasm to utilize the knowledge in improving their overall financial and digital usage and passing the learning to other women in the community.

The results of the project are sustained through the creation of a Women’s Innovation Centre in Thar and phones provided to the centres.