By Grace P Sengupta
In 2014, we were really impressed seeing the success stories of our Nearly Cashless Branch project run by the integrated development programme. This project strove to shift from cash to mobile money across a range of transactions, including mobile allowances, payments to extension workers, and loan collection. This year, this project aims to extend these services to other branch offices in the area.
Few weeks back, I had an opportunity to visit Hatiya and Suborno char, one of the most poor and remote areas of Bangladesh, where our IDP programme is providing all empowerment programmes of BRAC together. After staying a night at Suborno char, when I was thinking how people manage to live here without electricity and internet, I didn’t know what I am going to see and experience in the very next morning.
After a 45 minutes’ walk and absorbing a lot of vitamin D when finally we reached at the village organization, it felt like the whole village is there in that VO meeting. It gave us a good opportunity to understand the scope and challenges of our clients and their families who are using bKash. We were amazed to see how bKash is a daily part of their lives and how smart they are in terms of using technology.
Let’s hear it in their words how mobile money continuously changing their lives.
“Before, I didn’t know how to dial numbers and couldn’t call anyone. But after learning the numbers from Sir (PO), now I can call anyone at anytime I want.” – Zolekha Bagum, VO Member, Saddambazar, Noakhali
“I buy airtime from my bKash wallet. I also send money sometimes and help other people to buy airtime. I learned all the steps in just two days.” – Nur Banu, VO Member, Saddambazar, Noakhali
“I can’t read, but my daughter-in-law read these stories to me. Then I understand what these stories are all about.”- Shahena Akter, VO Member, Saddambazar, Noakhali
“I already have bKash account. My husband sends me money over bKash. Till now, I have received almost 60,000-70,000 tk from my husband through bKash.”- Amena Begum, VO Member, Idrisbazar, Noakhali
“My son has bKash in his phone. My husband sends money over bKash. Agents take extra money when my son goes to them for cashing out. If we get training how to use bKash, we will be really benefitted”- Hamida Khatun, VO Member, Idrisbazar, Noakhali
“Before coming here, I could never imagine that in an area like this, we have our clients. It’s remarkable. Thank you BRAC for giving me this experience.”- Md. Somel Reza Khan, Key Account Manager- Enterprise & Solutions,bKash Limited
And, there is no harm in taking selfies when you are at work! 🙂 The team enjoyed the trip to the fullest and looking forward to more amazing experiences.
Grace P Sengupta is an Assistant Manager with the BRAC Social Innovation Lab. Follow her on twitter @gracepsengupta.