TBI Blogs: Meet the Economist-Turned-Farmer who Founded India’s First Rural Financial Institution for Women

Janki Devi Bajaj Foundation The IMC Ladies' Wing - Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar promotes, supports and honours the substantial work being done by woman entrepreneurs in rural India.

Chetna Gala Sinha is using the Mann Deshi Bank to work towards empowerment of rural women by ensuring their financial independence and self-sufficiency.

An economist, farmer and activist, Chetna Gala Sinha was born in Mumbai. In the 1970s, she was active in the Jayprakash Narayan student movement. Her involvement in the movement gave her the opportunity to work extensively with rural and marginalised communities. After her marriage to a farmer and rights activist from the Mhaswad area, in Maharashtra, Chetna decided to pursue a career in farming. This was when she experienced firsthand one of the biggest challenges faced by rural women – lack of access to financial services leading to crippling debt.

Her personal experience led her to create, design and develop the Mann Deshi Bank.

A helping hand who empowers women in drought-prone areas of rural India by inculcating entrepreneurial skills and providing them access to land and other means of production. Chetna Gala Sinha with the women of Mhaswad, Maharashtra

Chetna Sinha strongly believes that empowering rural women contributes to improving their lives and ensuring the well-being of their families and community. It is with this vision that she established  the Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank Ltd. in Mhaswad, in Satara district of Maharashtra. It is believed to be India’s first rural financial institution to receive a co-operative license from the Reserve Bank of India.

The bank was set up in 1997 and is run by women, for women. In addition to offering financial assistance, it also invests in developing rural infrastructure and asset-building; floats projects to rejuvenate local traditional skills; offers training for skill upgradation and rebuilds women’s linkages with new markets.

In 2004, with the objective of promoting the right of women to own property, Mann Deshi Bank succeeded in convincing the Revenue Department of Maharashtra to include women’s names on stamp papers which are required in transactions of immovable properties.

Sinha has significantly contributed to bringing in a revolution amongst rural women by providing them with the tools necessary for achieving financial independence and self-sufficiency.

Smt. Chetna Gala Sinha receiving 13th IMC-LW Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar -2005 from Dr. Indu Shahani, Principal, H.R.College. Dr. Meenal Kapadia, President IMC-LW looks on.

Chetna Gala Sinha receiving 13th IMC-LW Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar 2005 from Dr. Indu Shahani, Principal, H.R.College. Dr. Meenal Kapadia, President IMC-LW looks on.

In addition to the bank, the Mann Deshi umbrella includes operations of two other organizations: Mann Vikas Samajik Sanstha and Mann Deshi Mahila Bachat Gat Federation. The Sanstha provides students scholarships, vocational skills training and conducts health education camps. The Federation is a non-profit association that aims to develop and empower rural women entrepreneurs. It currently caters to more than 300 self-help groups. These comprise of self employed women who are vegetable vendors, milk sellers and weavers.

Sinha has been successful in introducing this new concept to develop a culture of micro-entrepreneurship among women in the inaccessible, drought-prone areas of Maharashtra.

Her work and contribution has also gained recognition and acclaim internationally.

Various organizations and financial institutes have extended their support and co-operation towards Sinha’s commendable projects and activities.


IMC Ladies’ Wing Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar was instituted with an objective to seek a close alliance with rural India to promote, support and honour the substantial work being done by women in the field of rural entrepreneurship. If you know a fierce Indian woman who fits this criteria, nominate her by clicking below.

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