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Jessica Hernandez India 2016

Through the Stanford Center for South Asia (CSA) and Stanford Global Studies (SGS), I spent all of last summer as an intern for the Development Support Team (DST) and the Forbes Marshall Company in Pune, India.  I lived in Koregaon Park, a rather small neighborhood in Pune, in a Forbes Marshall guesthouse with two other Stanford interns.  Through the support of CSA and the Forbes Marshall, I was able to fly to and from India and live in one of Pune’s nicest neighborhoods without incurring any sort of financial encumbrance.  Before I delve into my internship report, I would just like to thank CSA, SGS, DST, Forbes Marshall, everyone that I met while in India, and everyone else that helped make this summer possible.  This summer provided me with a new perspective on the inner workings of non-profit organizations, corporate responsibility, social work, and the opportunity to live on my own in a completely different country, so, for all of this, I am incredibly grateful.

              DST was established in 1985 as a support service agency with a focus on the areas of gender, microfinance (especially regarding women development), rural development, natural resource management through community participation, and social research.  Their microfinance program – which was the focus of my internship – works in both urban and rural sectors.  Their rural program works with small and medium-sized action groups, supporting two specific areas: financial support for sustenance and the capacity building for operational effectiveness.  They use a Self Help Group (SHG) – Federation model to promote financial literacy and economic independence among the women in the villages that they service (within the rural areas of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad).  Each village contains multiple SHGs, each with roughly 15-20 women per SHG.  These SHGs serve as banking and loaning pools for these women.  Since the villages are so far removed from main cities, banks are terribly difficult to come in contact with.  These SHGs bring the banking to the villages while also giving the women an opportunity to learn how to manage their finances and become more independent in their households.  Each woman saves a certain amount of money into the SHG (usually about 200 rupees), creating a pool in which the women can request loans for various reasons: starting a microenterprise, funding their children’s education, paying bills, buying groceries, etc.  This community aspect also creates a sense of companionship and accountability amongst the women within each SHG, aiding them in finding friends within the community outside of their households, which can be helpful when certain unsavory or violent situations arise at home.

            Forbes Marshall, a rather large steam engine firm based in Pune (but with offices all around the world), participates in Indian corporate social responsibility through a thriving and productive social sector.  This sector partners with DST on multiple projects, especially those that involve providing socioeconomic empowerment to the women in the villages surrounding the Forbes Marshall factories.  Such a partnership has been effective for over 15 years, utilizing the SHG-Federation model in Kasarwardi, Bopkhel, and two new villages in Chakan.

            My internship involved assisting in consolidating and analyzing the baseline data collected from the SHG members in Chakan.  This study is in conjunction with a much larger project involving the implementation of the SHG-Federation model in Chakan – with much supervision and care from both Forbes Marshall and DST – that began back in April.  The primary objective of this baseline data study was to understand and document the current socioeconomic status to create a baseline understanding that would aid DST and Forbes Marshall in seeing how membership in an SHG could affect the lives of these women. 

            Most days were spent in either the DST office or the Forbes Marshall office – reading reports, analyzing data, and documenting everything into multiple Excel spreadsheets and one large study.  I also had the opportunity to go out into the villages on field visits with various DST/Forbes Marshall members to give me a chance to actually experience the environments that I was writing about.  My final project was submitted to Forbes Marshall and DST during my last day of work: a very long study with multiple graphs and charts and a presentation for DST and various Forbes Marshall social sector managers.

 

-Jessica Hernandez