Ramadan in Dubai: Financial literacy initiative empowers blue-collar workers

Courses cover budgeting, spending, saving and cards, as well as how to identify and protect oneself from fraud


Nandini Sircar

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Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Published: Thu 20 Apr 2023, 2:21 PM

Last updated: Fri 21 Apr 2023, 4:59 PM

Meet Kenyan expat Bakari Abdulla, a blue-collar worker who is just one of the 9,000 beneficiaries of the ‘Life Goals initiative’, a financial literacy programme, launched this Ramadan to empower blue-collar workers.

Under Dubai Holding’s strategic partnership with Visa, free and comprehensive financial literacy courses are being provided with the aim to enhance the financial inclusion of blue-collar workers within the Group and with the support of volunteering employees from both Dubai Holding and Visa.

One such employee, Bakari, started his career as a security guard and quickly moved up the ladder to become a system administrator at Arkan Group.

Bakari Abdulla
Bakari Abdulla

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Bakari, who belongs to a family of seven says, “I moved to Dubai in 2016 looking for greener pastures as I needed to support my family back home. I am here at VISA for the ‘Train the Trainer’ programme. I believe, since I live with the blue-collar workers in the staff accommodation, I am the first line of contact for them every day. I do have a conversation with them, and I realize that they don’t have any proper understanding about financial management. So, I saw this opportunity and took it up.”

Bakari opines he plans to set up 50 per cent of his salary as savings. He intends to put half of the savings in his bank account in Kenya and send the remaining half to his family to support them. He is also passionate about programming and wants to take the CSA 50 programme from Harvard someday, while aspiring to get into his dream job of working in Amazon or Google.

“This session is all about ‘Train the Trainer’ so we are equipped with skills on how to deliver the information to other staff and most of it is about budgeting and how to spend money prudently. Most people don’t have a budget. They receive their salaries and from back home they receive a call and send all their money. Then they don’t know how to survive all through the month. They are back to zero within a week and they go back to borrowing money or credit. These sessions will be helpful for the staff as they get an insight on how to budget their money,” adds the 29-year-old.

Improving job satisfaction levels

Workers underline financial education and resources support improve their overall job satisfaction and productivity, creating a positive impact on them and their families.

26-year-old Edward Dibin, a security guard from Ghana says, “One of the main motives of coming to Dubai was to get in touch with people and knowing their different cultures. I am grateful to my employer for the kind of exposure that I have received. I come from a poor country and people back home don’t know how to handle money well. In terms of learning, what I really learnt is the importance of debit and credit cards because I usually carry cash in my pocket and many times, I’ve lost the money. So, I have come to learn that it is good to keep money in the bank account. Even if the card is lost your money is not lost if you can quickly block it. I’ve realized knowledge is power and it can take you far and I want people of my country to be empowered as well.”

Financial literacy courses cover budgeting, spending, saving and cards, as well as how to identify and protect oneself from fraud.

Ugandan national Gaston Tumwebaze, who works as a security guard in Ejadah, says, “This training session has helped me to budget, allowing visibility into our spending. How much do I need to save, what do I need to spend on? Day-to-day life’s expenditures are getting expensive. So, saving is an important component. To learn not to spend on things that are not really required is integral.”

Some of the other candidates who have been identified as eligible trainers include Devi Subramanian, Facility Coordinator for Operation Department who works at Idama, and Lama Saleh Hasan, a white-collar worker at Ejadah.

“In daily life we see people struggling with finances who don’t understand budgeting. Not understanding your finances properly can lead to financial insecurity. Here, I have learnt things that’ll help people to organize and do better financial planning. If people understand money well, then that’ll help them to better save. This will lead to an improved standard of live. This training helped me to understand some key elements of financial planning, a knowledge that I can then pass on to my peers now,” explains Devi.

Jordanian expat Lama who started as a receptionist and is now an executive opines, “I learnt how to get involved with the participants so that they can maximize from the financial literacy course. It will help me a lot as I am responsible for myself and my family. So, I can learn more tips and tricks to manage my finances better. I am going to implement it myself before delivering it to the people. After this session, I feel I’ll ask myself more about my wants and needs before spending.”

Focusing on employee welfare

Meanwhile, the Group continues to act on its commitment to creating a positive and sustainable impact on the community following several initiatives over the years.

This initiative is part of their Group-wide sustainability strategy and their commitment to focus on employee welfare, in line with the UAE national agendas and the UN SDGs 8.10 and 10.C (Decent Work and Economic Growth and Reduced Inequalities).

Huda Buhumaid, Chief Impact Officer, Dubai Holding, opines, “Life Goals is an initiative to upskill and empower blue-collar workers through financial literacy, helping them feel more in control of their life and giving them the knowledge and confidence to work towards the life goals that brought them to the UAE. The initiative also centres around rewarding and recognising their significant contribution to the Dubai ecosystem.”

She adds, “We have chosen Visa as they have the expertise required to support the implementation of this initiative and share a common goal of empowering an important group for the UAE.”

Company heads also aver that blue-collar workers play a crucial role in the UAE’s socio-economic development and therefore it’s their responsibility as corporates to ensure they have access to information that contributes to their wellbeing and improved quality of life.

Carl Manlan, Head of Inclusive Impact and Sustainability for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa at Visa says, “Ramadan is a very special part of the calendar. It's a time where we must pause for those that are fasting. We need to think about the meaning of life and having a spotlight on blue collar workers. During this time, it was all about giving, thinking about the other and finding ways to define meaning in our lives. But we also want to make sure that when Ramadan ends, we ramp up the training sessions.”

He adds, “What is unique about the Dubai Holding-Visa partnership is that it is the first time that we are providing financial education for blue collar workers. We’ve done work in schools, universities and other settings but with them it’s the first time. We went to Dubai Holdings and said these are the things we could do together. They came back to us and said this is what we want to do. For us to work with a local company that understands the values and shift in society and how they want to position themselves as a front runner in making the transition was very rewarding.”


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