By K.Christopher Jeyaraj*
Equitas Development Initiative Trust (EDIT) addresses a larger spectrum of requirements of Equitas Holding Company low income SHG members including schools for members’ children and skill development training classes to its SHG members. Equitas and its subsidiaries have committed to contribute 5% of their annual profits to the Equitas Development Initiatives Trust. The trust is a not for profit organization and the various activities carried out by the trust are detailed below.
Purpose of the initiative: Education is a key lever to enable upward social mobility for low income SHG members’ children. Equitas has rolled out its Gurukuls initiatives to “empower children of Equitas members through high quality education at affordable cost”.
Impact of the initiative: Equitas Gurukul schools aim to provide the best quality of education comparable with the best of schools in India. Gurukul conforms to the Matriculation syllabus and is imparted in English medium. There is no system of entrance test or interview and students are admitted on first come first serve basis. There is also no upfront donation and the fee is structured to ensure it is affordable for members. Schools will be able to break-even only after 10 to 12 years.
EDIT is currently running 7 such schools at Trichy, Dindigul, Salem, Sivakasi Karur, Cuddalore & Coimbatore with 4530 students. And more schools are planned. Equitas has board approval for investing 15% of its net worth to purchase land & construct buildings for its schools. The company leases the building free of cost to the Trust for it to operate the school.
Gurukul students: 98% of Gurukul students are from BC, MBC and SC categories.
Gurukul parents: 80% of Gurukul parents are from Economically Weaker Sections.
Vision of Gurukul
Holistic / overall development of the child – Physical, Intellectual, Moral, Social, Emotional…
Gurukul follows concept of “Project based learning” for teaching
Fostering creativity and critical thinking skills
Children of classes I and above are exposed to learn computers and have access to computer labs as part of their learning on a daily basis.
Library with a good collection of both fiction and non fiction – from picture books to encyclopaedia, magazines and journals
Every day yoga practice – Conditioning and keeping fit the mind and the body, Helps improve concentration and control emotions
Music and Dance are also built in to the curriculum with weekly classes to ensure that all students take part in these activities
Only 35 students in each class room to ensure that teacher is able to focus on the students
Workshops are conducted for Teachers and Principals, frequently and reviewed on not just teaching methodology but also on various other things
Parents are encouraged to spend few minutes in the class room to observe when teaching is in progress and give their feed back
Our students have won many hearts with their performance in Yoga and other competitions.
Health records of Students Studying in Gurukuls:
Various Health camps(pediatric, eye, skin, dental and general) are conducted once a quarter in all the schools and the health data is documented and follow up done on a periodic basis and the parents are involved in the follow up:
Purpose of the initiative: Under the aegis of its Trust, Equitas has imparted training to over 427598 SHG women members in skills such as tailoring & embroidery, agarbathi/candle making, detergent/phenyl manufacturing and preparing processed food such as pickles & jams. These training programs are structured as 1-week long programs.
Impact of the initiative: The skill development program has helped improve the income of the beneficiaries.
Pavement dwellers rehabilitation program
Purpose of the initiative: As a mark of its commitment to the down-trodden sections of the society, Equitas runs its “Equitas Bird’s Nest” program to rehabilitate pavement dwellers. As per the 2001 Census conducted by Government of India, over 9000 families reside in the pavements of Chennai. Governmental interventions on providing alternative housing for these families have not worked since they disrupt the daily economic life of these families. In light of this, Equitas partnered with Unitus in rolling out the Equitas Bird’s Nest program.
Impact of the initiative: A dedicated team setup by Equitas identified 102 families residing in the pavement for the pilot phase of this initiative. The program was presented to these families and was launched with their support. As a first step of this program, financial support for housing was provided to these families. The financial support met the expenses of rental advance and the first 6 months’ rental expenses. During this period, Equitas also provided skill development training to the adults in the families. Agarbathi (incense sticks) rolling, phenyl manufacturing and other vocational skills imparted to these families. The families used these skills to augment their income. With this increased income, these families are expected to afford their housing expenses. During the period of support, Equitas Dhanya Kosha provided grocery items worth Rs 350 per month for free for a period of 12 months. At the end of the support phase, the families are expected to be self-sustainable. In the pilot phase, 102 families have attained self-sustainable status. All of them received Voters ID for the first time in their lives and are now eligible to apply for Ration Cards.
Encoouraged by the success of the pilot, in the second phase we were able to move another 800 families and most of them have attained self sustenance status.
In another proactive step, Equitas facilitates conduct of job fairs for members’ unemployed children with the help of recruiters and employers to enable employment opportunities and help them with job placements according to their profiles in companies like Nokia, Tech company’s, and retail outlets like Textile showrooms, KFC, Malls, Hospitals etc. Till date we were able to find gainful employment to over 71828 wards of our member base
Health care services Directly by EDIT
Purpose of the initiative: Equitas understands that access to affordable healthcare is a key pain-point for SHG members. Towards bridging this gap, Equitas has conducted health camps for the benefit of over 36 lakhs members. The health camps are conducted in partnership with leading hospitals and health care providers and include general health camps, eye camps, cancer detection camps etc. Equitas has allocated a monthly budget of Rs 2000 per branch to conduct these camps.
Apart from primary health camps, Equitas has also established partnerships with a wide range of hospitals. These partner hospitals have agreed to provide subsidized quality healthcare services to Equitas members. Members wishing to avail of this service may contact a Health Helpline; which will direct them to the nearest hospital best suited to address their ailment. The health helpline has benefited over 20000 members.
Impact of the initiative: As per an internal study, median value perception of beneficiaries for the health camps and health helpline services were high.
Telemedicine: Equitas strongly believes that Telemedicine is the future in health sector, capable of taking quality health care facilities like diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases to underserved rural and urban slums beyond the walls of the hospital in a cost effective model- A Pilot has been launched in partnership with Apollo Telemedicine centre in 3 centres at Chennai 18587 members benefitted from this facility-Done by EDIT
Health Education: a team of 500 women skill trainers have been trained with Technical from Freedom from Hunger to impart Health Education which would help early detection of Non communicable diseases on an average 45000 SHG members are trained in a year-Done by EDIT
Anaemia Prevention Program in Collaboration with Chennai Corporation
A pilot was launched in Kannagi Nagar Slum board tenements, Chennai and a sample of 1000 women taken, their HB level were tested, the results showed that 78% of the sample was low, they were put through a course of one de-worming tab followed by administering iron & folic acid tablets for a period of 5-6 months, post test in 400 samples revealed increase in HB levels in almost 42%.
EDIT runs fifteen evening clinics across Tamil Nadu for the benefit of EWS and other low income households who seek medical help when they come back home in the evening after the days work, Doctors offer quality guidance and their health history is tracked, the health educator follows up with an health education program. Health Care Services done indirectly with the help of Equitas Micro Finance Pvt Ltd.
Primary Health Care: Our primary health care medical camps done free has benefited cumulatively 4151289 members so far which is a record in the MFI sector globally – Done by CSR Division.
Secondary Health Care & Health Help line: Our tie up with large number of hospitals helps our clients get treated for serious illness with inpatient facilities at a discount to normal cost, nearly 21762 members benefitted from this facility– Done by CSR Division
Board of Trustees
C K Gariyali, IAS (Retd); S P Mathur, IPS, DGP (Retd); M B Nirmal, Founder, Exnora International; T V Jayalakshmi, Educationist; P N Vasudevan, M.D, Equitas Micro Finance India P Ltd.
(*K.Christopher Jeyaraj, AGM – Business Development, Equitas Small Finance Bank Ltd.)