Money in the Rice Jar9:51:00 am
There’s this quote by Will Smith that goes “Money and success don’t change people; they merely amplify what’s already there.” I think this quote has gained new meaning during the demonetization drive that’s currently going on. At the stroke of midnight of November 8, 2016, our carriages turned to pumpkins and our horses turned to mice, leaving hordes of people running to ATMs, never mind a glass slipper or two being left behind in the rush!
Okay, so you’ve already read all about the serpentine queues and lack of cash in the ATMs. There’s enough trash talking going on everywhere too, with people either being vehemently against or passionately for the entire drive. Seems like there’s no middle ground these days, especially on social media! Anyway, amidst all the noise, it’s been quite interesting to look at how this has affected women, especially the ones who aren’t that educated.
My journeys to the money machines these past few weeks have revealed a few things about Indian women and money. Many of them are unable to fill out a basic deposit slip at a bank. It’s not that they’re illiterate (hello, 100% literate state?). It’s just that the entire process seems too complicated and they’re basically just scared. Women were asking me if I could accompany them to the ATM and help them withdraw cash. And this is in Kerala, a state where 91.98% women are literate, compared to the national average of 65.46%. I can only imagine the troubles borne by women who aren’t literate.
I have to admit, sitting in my apartment with a computer and an internet connection, I didn’t imagine that the number of unbanked women would be so high. I guess the patriarchal notion of financial planning being a man’s job still persists. There have been some sexist jokes going about since the demonetization started, like the one where husbands say that they’ll at least get to know how much money their wives have been ‘stealing’ from them. Seriously? Your wife works the whole day, all week and she budgets and saves money, and you call that stealing? Why don’t you just help her open a bank account? Why, are you scared she’ll become independent and won’t be as easy to control? Ugh!!
Before people start attacking me – I’m no financial expert myself! Any talk about equities, derivatives and endowments are enough to send me running. I know many other urban women are in the same boat, and the jargon makes the field of personal finance look intimidating. Yet, providing proper financial literacy for Indian women is something that has been way overdue, and I wish the centre and state governments focused more on this. Gender inequalities like these seriously hamper the development of the nation as a whole, as several studies have pointed out.
For all the women out there like me, I’m compiling some resources that’ll help us understand personal finance better and take more control of our money, whether it’s property, gold or other assets, like bonds or stocks (look at me, going all finance-y). So stay tuned for a post on financial resources for women coming up soon!