Responsible Financial Inclusion

»» At the top of the list of The Global Goals for Sustainability is “No Poverty”. It states that “Responsible financial products build the resilience of the poor and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters”. With over 65 million slum dwellers and over 40 million widows, the people of India certainly need these solutions.

In India, it is primarily women who compromise careers to care for their husbands and families. Add to that the fact that many of these women are uneducated or even illiterate and it ups the vulnerability stakes considerably. Should the unthinkable happen and their husbands – usually the sole breadwinner of the family – pass away, these women and their children are often left destitute and defenceless.

Arranged marriages are still the norm for most and, like millions of brides in India, Sheela Devi met her husband only on the day of their wedding. Sheela hails from a small village where there was no school and education was not deemed important. Illiterate and uneducated, securing a good marriage was her best chance at survival. Fortunately for Sheela – and unlike many – this was a marriage to a kind and loving husband who took very good care of her.

37 years later, when he passed away on her lap en route to the hospital, she was devastated. Apart from losing the love of her life, she was now left to care for the house, children and finances. They had never discussed any of his financial affairs, or what she was to do when he passed away. All he said was that he had “a policy”. A policy which, in true essence, saved her life when it paid out upon his death. Sheela was able to continue with her life as it was before, and now also wants to take out a policy on her life so that her children are cared for when she passes away.

Vishaka R M, CEO of IndiaFirst Life Insurance, agrees that the consequences of a lack of insurance are much worse for women. IndiaFirst is making it their business to educate people about the benefits of life insurance and to change the negative perceptions that exist around it. To date they have insured, on a cumulative basis, over ten million lives and have paid out claims to the value of billions of rupees. Vishaka hopes that life insurance becomes as entrenched in the Indian culture as the religious practices that abound. In that way, they will actively be working towards reducing the vulnerability of the poor and building a society that is resilient to disaster.