Empowering Rural Women

Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank, an initiative of Chetna Gala Sinha, is transforming lives of the villagers of Mhaswad, in Maharastra, and it has become the ray of hope for the women in the area. Samiksha Jain reports.'
Empowering Rural Women

A social initiative has curbed migration and given a ray of hope to the rural women of Mhaswad near the Satara district of Maharastra.  Mhaswad was an inaccessible and drought prone village where people were once left with little options. Then came the initiative of Chetna Gala Sinha, who has empowered women in the area by inculcating entrepreneurial skills and providing them access to land and other means of production.

In year 1997, Chetna Gala Sinha, an economist and social activist, founded Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank (Mann Deshi), a regulated cooperative bank run by and for women. It is India’s first rural financial cooperative institution to have received a cooperative license from the Reserve Bank of India, claims Chetna.

By now the bank has branches in seven other districts of the state in rural areas. Mann Deshi’s customers are poor women with daily income of less than Rs 93.62. The bank caters to the needs of the disadvantaged groups of the community and is proud to have become the first bank in the country to have more than 11,040 customers from backwards castes. Mann Deshi’s success has shown that when women control the household finances more money is spent on children, education, healthcare and other important domestic items. She believes that financial empowerment of women will hasten the growth and development of rural India, thereby creating a better life for future generations.

The bank has encouraged hundreds of women to become confident, capable leaders in their families as well as in local communities. The bank has trained hundreds of their women to lead Self Help Groups (SHGs), it manages their accounts, and keeps financial records. Through its services Mann Deshi aims to equip women with liquid assets which can be used in emergency situations. It also supports women in becoming entrepreneurs, building women’s ability to plan and save for their family’s future.

Adding more feather, Mann Deshi Venture (MDV) today runs three pioneering institutions that together enable rural women to set up new livelihoods and triple their household income. It also offers a range of customized financial services, a rural mobile MBA school that offers management and entrepreneurship training, and a chamber of commerce that facilitate new social networks as well as market and policy linkages.

Mann Deshi has enabled 185,000 women to save, 10,000 to own property and 42,000 to set up businesses and emerge as developers of their local eco-systems. By 2020, MDM aspires to launch one million rural women entrepreneurs through partnerships with social enterprises and mainline financial institutions of the country.

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