Annu Swamy, a 35-year-old single mom living in the Bharat Nagar slums in Chembur, Mumbai, leveraged the training provided to her by Reliance Foundation to empower hundreds of women in her community, setting them on the path to financial freedom
Annu Swamy, a 35-year-old resident of Bharat Nagar slums in Chembur, Mumbai, was a single mom and the sole provider for all her three children. Estranged from her husband years ago, she was bringing up her two sons and her daughter single-handedly, juggling her commitments at work with her responsibilities as a parent and a homemaker.
Annu had been working on a small project with a non-profit organisation, earning Rs 8,000 every month. With the project nearing completion, Annu was anxious. She urgently needed to find a new job, so she could continue providing for her children’s daily needs and send her daughter to school.
It was around this time that Annu heard about the Financial Literacy programme conducted by Reliance Foundation (RF) near her home. Being aware that she needed to start saving for her children’s future, she enrolled herself as a participant. Recalling the experience, she says: “The Financial Literacy programme altogether transformed my relationship with money and my attitude towards spending. I realised how much money I had been wasting on junk food and impulsive purchases. I learnt many useful financial management techniques.”
While the programme was still in progress, the RF trainers observed that Annu was a fast learner and had a positive, friendly attitude. Identifying her as a potential leader, they asked her to train for the role of a community master trainer for the Financial Literacy programme. Annu readily agreed.
The training proved to be a turning point in Annu’s life. Assuming her role as a community trainer, she was unstoppable. She counselled and convinced hundreds of women to sign up for the training programmes, helped them evaluate their financial circumstances, and empowered them to make informed financial decisions. She even helped them interact with insurance agents and bank representatives for investments and savings accounts. Each time one of her students approached her with a question or shared how they had applied their training in their day-to-day lives, her heart swelled with pride – she knew she had found her true calling.
In less than a year, Annu has trained as many as 1,500 women in 58 training programmes, sensitising them about the need to save and invest to secure their families financially. Even though Annu herself is unlettered, her eagerness to learn – and share her learnings with other women to empower them – marks her out as a true leader. She shares, “It gives me immense satisfaction to know that my work as a trainer contributes towards securing the health, happiness and prosperity of many women who often suffer, simply because they lack access to basic information and awareness. By training a single woman, I feel like I am contributing to the wellbeing of the present as well as the future generation. Seeing their mothers take charge of their household finances and keeping track of their expenses, young children are also inspired and encouraged to exercise similar caution and follow the same practices. Seeing this makes me happy.”
Today, Annu routinely goes above and beyond her role as a trainer to help the women she meets at the Financial Literacy programmes. Whether it’s accompanying domestic violence survivors to the police station, or providing any kind of assistance they need in emergencies – Annu stands by her students through thick and thin. In return, she enjoys the love, admiration and goodwill of the entire community. She asserts: “I am touched by the faith and confidence that my students repose in me, the respect that they show me. Earlier, I was everybody’s didi; now, they call me ‘Madam.’ Working as a trainer has made me more confident than ever – I feel that there is nothing I cannot do.”