For Rachel Mucha (SFS ’18), this year’s recipient of OWN IT’s Gwendolyn Mikell Award for Women’s Empowerment, the India Innovation Studio class was critical to sparking her passion for furthering the financial literacy and education of women.
The India Innovation Studio is a course through Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in coordination with the government of Maharashtra, India. The goal of the course is for students to design and implement a solution to a development issue that India faces. Mucha received this year’s award for her project focusing on providing financial management and entrepreneurship training to female farmers in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra.
The award, a collaboration between the OWN IT Summit and Georgetown’s own Social and Innovation Public Service Fund, honors a woman for “pursuing a not-for-profit project that in some way relates to social innovation, public service and/or environmental sustainability,” according to the OWN IT website. SIPS, a student-run philanthropic organization that grants $60,000 each year to students conducting social projects, co-sponsors the award.
Mucha, who had been working with SIPS on the project before receiving the award, said she was encouraged to apply for the grant by her SIPS project manager to continue to expand her work.
In an interview with The Hoya, Mucha explained her vision behind the project that led to her receiving the award.
Your project focuses on providing financial management and training to female farmers in India. How did you first get involved with the farming industry?
I don’t have much experience with female farming, but I’m part of the India Initiative at Georgetown. So, I’ve been studying and working on projects related to India throughout the course of this year. In terms of financial literacy for women, as a culture and politics major, my focus has been on global level development solutions that can benefit women. So, microfinance and financial literacy are key to have.
Why did you decide to get involved with the India Initiative?
I started taking a class called the India Innovation Studio last semester, and our focus this year is on public health and sanitation. I didn’t really know a lot about India, but I was interested in applying the public health aspects of the class.
How do you plan to use your grant?
These $500 will allow me to stay an extra week and hopefully implement the workshop in another community. The initial plan was just to do it in one and make a town hall or community center, but hopefully now we can expand it. I’m also planning to design some sort of booklet or curriculum that I can print out and leave as a tool to refer back to.
Do you plan on going to India soon?
I am going in June for three weeks. I am going for a week with my class, two weeks by myself and, depending on what post-grad looks like, I might end up staying on to do some other things with the [India Innovation] Studio.
How do you plan on initiating everything there?
I’m working on a survey that I’m sending to the non-governmental organization I am partnered with. They will distribute the survey within the community so that it can better diagnose and understand where the gaps of financial literacy are for the people I’ll be working with, because they do not want to implement a curriculum that is unnecessary. I also made sure that I am cognizant that women have a lot of domestic or household responsibilities, so if family budgeting or financial managing would be more useful, then I will focus on those. When I get the results of the survey, I am designing a curriculum, and I have done a lot of research on different kinds of digital literacy curriculums. [The class] will be in the evening from eight to 10, after the work day ends.
Do you have an idea of what you think the curriculum might look like?
It depends on the survey results, but right now I am planning to talk a little bit more about digital financial literacy, like how to use online banking or mobile pay apps. I also might end up working on business management skills, like teaching women how to manage their finances from an entrepreneurial perspective, like revenue generation.
What message do you hope to instill in Georgetown students?
Take advantage of the resources on campus. There are a lot of opportunities for funding and travel. I think I am just a lucky beneficiary of the support networks I have, and I am really grateful for OWN IT and the SIPS fund for giving people like me the opportunity to take on projects that we’re interested in.