Every year, nearly 42% of Indians fall prey to financial frauds. The most vulnerable are people from underprivileged backgrounds, who have limited financial literacy.

To change this, District Collector Harshika Singh from Madhya Pradesh launched a programme to ensure 100% functional literacy in her district.

“People work very hard to make ends meet. It is unfair that they are robbed of their money only because they are not literate. To right this wrong, we introduced the adult literacy programmes,” she says.

In Mandla, which lies on the border of Chhattisgarh, she was able to mobilise 25,000 volunteers to make the people “functionally literate”.

“It became important for us to teach them the basics. Besides being able to sign their names, the programme also educated them on handling money,” she says.

To make the effort more community driven, Harshika started by contacting the educated daughters and daughters-in-law from the panchayat to join the team.

Additionally, she started an initiative called Gyan Dhan, which crowdsourced resources like  books, slates, writing instruments and all other tools.

They were able to set up Mahila Gyanalays (Women Schools) across 490 Gram Panchayats in the district.

To encourage more and more women to come and learn, she calls the most literate women in the village as chief guests at any formal address or function.

“Be a school-level celebration or even celebrating independence and Republic Day, we make them chief guests. This brought them a lot of social respect and encouraged others as well,” she adds.

Harshika has seen a considerable reduction in the number of frauds in the district. “To safeguard the hard-earned money of every individual in my district. This is our true reward,” she says.