WWF's Banking with the poor
The early initiators of WWF concentrated on credit support as an entry point to social mobilisation. Typically, in a poor urban family, women's economic contribution becomes critical where male contribution to household income is low, as most men spend almost all their income on consumption of tobacco and liquor. As a result, the family is heavily dependent on the earnings of children for survival and a significant number of women are sole contributors to the family income. Consequently, the main pre occupation and concern of women workers was access to formal credit which was also their major constraint. Thus, the credit option became a great relief to women entrepreneurs as it helped them get out of the clutches of moneylenders and middlemen. WWF played the role of mediator between the loan members and the nationalised banks, in its initial effort, taking responsibility for the credit discipline of its members.
The formal bankers had inherent reservations to linking the poor with banking due to the colonial attitude of the banks towards the poor as they doubted the credit worthiness of poor women. They viewed them as large-scale credit risks. The women too were uncomfortable with the banks as they felt that such institutions were meant to serve the rich and the opulent. The collateral demanded by the banks were often far beyond the capacity of the poor women.
Added to this, were the highly bureaucratic formalities of documentation which the poor illiterate borrowers were unable to comply with. These elaborate procedures were probably meaningful within the formal systems but they failed to serve the needs of the poor women. Hence, compelled by the complicated systems and bureaucratic delays of the banks that simply refused to plan for the needs of the poor, women of WWF resolved to create a system of their own that would address their credit needs and would be informal and easy to operate. Thus 2,500 leaders of the Forum with a share of Rs.20 each and seed capital of Rs.50,000 - initiated and established their own Working Women's Co-operative Society in 1981 now registered as the Indian Co-operative Network for Women.