> Posted by Abhishek Agrawal, India Country Director, Accion

Over the past two years, CFI’s three MFI partners in India have included over 13,000 persons with disabilities (PWD) as clients in mainstream financial services, helping them become economically active. Almost all of these clients were first-time borrowers.

CFI and Accion, with our knowledge partner v-shesh and MFI implementation partners – Annapurna based in Odisha, Equitas based in Tamil Nadu, and ESAF from Kerala – have been working on the financial inclusion of persons with disabilities over the past two years. This working group created tools and an operating model for MFIs to incorporate PWD as staff and clients. The recommendations, which include policy changes in non-discrimination and other areas, are being piloted at the MFIs. Disability awareness trainings have been conducted for over 100 MFI staff across the country. Over the next several months these staff will train another 6,000 frontline MFI staff.

The PWD clients who have borrowed credit from these MFIs feel very privileged, as they are regarded with dignity and pride while they earn their livelihoods and learn about financial inclusion opportunities.

Often, disability is neglected, seen without empathy, or viewed as a matter of charity. We often forget that disability can come to anyone through any number of events and will come to many of us as we age. It is very interesting to hear from the clients. While providers may want to solve the problem through charity, persons with disabilities most often say they want an opportunity not a handout. We, as civil society, need to ensure that this population segment is included.

On August 14th, the eve of India’s Independence Day, NCPEDP, a national disability organization, held an award ceremony, the NCPEDP Mphasis Universal Design Awards to recognize the work on disability inclusion of individuals and organizations across India. NCPEDP has been offering these awards for the past five years, recognizing and appreciating those who work to make India more accessible in education, business, health, finance, and other core life areas. The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion and its disability inclusion working group members have been recognized for contributing innovative work on financial inclusion through microfinance for this population segment.

We are very proud of this recognition, and happy that our work in India has been gaining strong momentum. By the end of 2015, Accion and CFI intend to spread disability inclusion outreach to over 100,000 new PWD clients through the integration of inclusive financial services and financial and entrepreneurial skill development programs. We’re also finding that there are other partners seeking collaboration to work on PWD inclusion.

Please feel free to reach out to Abhishek Agrawal or CFI’s Principal Director for Disability Inclusion, Joshua Goldstein for further details on our PWD work in India and across the globe.

Have you read?

Attitudes toward Persons with Disabilities in Indian Microfinance Institutions

Combatting Exclusion for Persons with Disabilities in India and Mexico

The Implications of India’s 2014 Budget for Financial Inclusion