India's Community Support Programme was launched in June 1997 to focus
on micro-credit organisations working to empower underprivileged urban
women through income generation. The programme is based on the phil-osophy
of self-reliance. Citibank's partners in this programme are five not-for-profit
organisations in India:
Society for the Promotion of Area Resource
Centres (SPARC) in Mumbai
Friends of Women's World Banking (FWWB)
Working Women's Forum (WWF) in Chennai
Sasha in Kolkata
Sharan in New Delhi.
Citibank's partners extend micro-credit to low-income women in urban areas.
They have successfully organised women's collectives and channelled financial
resources to those women who are otherwise left out of the purview of the
The Citibank Community Support Programme
stands out in the financial services industry in India as highly effective
and sustaining, combining active employee participation and cause-related
advocacy. The idea is to provide its employees with a vehicle to volunteer
their time and skills should they choose to do so. Based on the concept
of volunteerism, the employees have grouped themselves into teams in response
to areas of need identified by non-governmental organisations.
The various teams are:
Tax and Regulatory Advisory
key aspects of the programme are:
for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC)
SPARC works in alliance with the
National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF), which has a membership of 3.5
lakh households in 32 cities and towns spread over six states and one union
territory in India. In addition, the Mahila Milan groups work as part of
the alliance. The alliance addresses issues of urban poverty with particular
focus on land tenure policies, community participation in housing and infrastructure
projects, and building capacities of poor communities in credit management
through the micro-credit programme.
According to the SPARC newsletter,
Sambandh, "Homeless International will deposit £1,00,000 in
an account with Citibank London. This will part guarantee the loan. Based
on due diligence processes set up with SPARC, Citibank in turn will advance
a loan to SPARC and Rajiv-Indira Co-operative Housing Society to help them
implement the project." This was the first of its kind in India.
of Women's World Bank (FWWB)
FWWB India is an apex organisation
providing loan and capacity-building support to non-governmental organisations
providing financial services to women in low-income households. The main
service provided is that of loans to the underprivileged to help set up
enterprises to generate income. They have planned to set up a revolving
loan fund for underprivileged women aimed at strengthening the micro-finance
sector in India and ensuring access for underprivileged women to suitable
FWWB and its parent organisation,
Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), have been keen partners in this
programme since its inception.
Women's Forum / The Indian Cooperative Network for Women (ICNW), Chennai,
A nationally and internationally
renowned union of women workers in the informal sector, the Working Women's
Forum (WWF) is a mass movement of over 3,50,000 poor women. WWF has promoted
a series of women's cooperatives in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh
and Karnataka. Since its inception in Chennai city in 1978 with about 800
members, nearly $3.5 million have been loaned to the members, 85 per cent
of whom belong to indigenous communities involved in 167 different enterprises.
Eighty-one per cent of the women are retail traders, e.g. fish sellers,
vegetable sellers, or incense-stick rollers, 16 per cent are service specialists,
and only 3 per cent belong to the manufacturing sector. Thus the Forum
has become an easy institutional mechanism for the poor to help themselves
in a self-management process.
outreach is achieved through a simple credit group model based on group
leaders who manage this micro-entity with the help of credit organisers.
A speaker at one of the annual strategy
meetings at WWF, Chennai, observed: "All that the poor women want is access
to credit, access to better skills, access to information and finally access
to markets. While no corporate house came forward to join hands with poor
women through the Working Women's Forum, it was Citibank that offered its
partnership to provide skill upgradation, access to technology and markets
for the exceptionally skilled women weavers in the ancient temple town
Citibank volunteers offered to computerise
the credit network initially at the ICNW head office in Chennai to reduce
paperwork for the staff, enabling them to devote more time to devising
and intensifying a strong field-oriented policy to reach the yet unreached
poor. It was towards this end that the volunteers of Citibank put in the
effort to develop software that would meet the specific requirements of
maintaining the day-to-day transactions and accounts for the staff of ICNW.
also undertook to find a market outlet for the women workers of WWF. As
a result, the first exhibition of cotton and silk sarees produced by the
women weavers and lace articles produced by lace artisans of Andhra Pradesh
who are members of WWF, was held in Chennai and has been a landmark event.
Though only a few silk and cotton sarees were on display, yet the profit
that reached the women without any interference from middlemen, was really
good. Taking advantage of this experience both Citibank and WWF are envisaging
a series of such exhibitions.
Citibank volunteers have contributed
in innumerable ways such as the initiative taken towards publishing an
information booklet for WWF, which was well received at Expo 2000 in Hanover,
Germany and was appreciatively reviewed by The Hindu.
Ayog /Sasha, Kolkata
Since its establishment in 1978,
Sarba Shanti Ayog (SSA), a craft-making organisation, perceived its objective
as supporting women's income generation through micro-credit. It is a catalytic
agent involved in promoting a better quality of life for the craftsmen
and artisans of India through the direct marketing of their products. These
efforts have resulted in developing the craft community, reviving dying
arts and skills, inspiring creativity and creating awareness of India's
rich handicraft heritage among urban buyers.
Today, Sasha works with 15 craft
groups in 15 communities in Bengal. Nearly $2,50,000 have been given to
55 craft groups. In 1991, Sasha established RASA to work with rural agro-based
producers with the central aim of promoting Indian herbal hair and body
Sharan (Society for Serving the
Urban Poor) was established in 1979. With 19 years' experience in the development
sector, it is a progress-ive organisation working in the slums and resettlement
colonies of New Delhi. It has evolved a sustainable and participatory programme
to help women become financially self-sufficient. Loans over $150,000 have
been disbursed with a complete return rate. These loans are utilised for
income-generation activity such as making woollen cardigans, bindi making
and embroidery. Sharan promotes over 80 small thrift groups comprising
15 to 20 members and has disbursed over $100,000 over the last 15 years.
Key interventions that were given
a major thrust by Citibank were:
of appropriate systems to handle the flow of the programme and redefining
the community involvement.
the financial viability and profitability of micro-credit operations.
assistance to spearhead growth and development of the credit cooperatives
for optimum benefit to the community.
of vocational training and placements like cutting and tailoring, domestic
help bureau and driving school; group enterprises like cooking oil distribution
and waste-paper recycling managed through women's federations.
results are very encouraging for both the partners and the success has
definitely paved the way for continued as well as new joint ventures between
the NGO sector and corporate sector for bringing meaningful changes among