Once a year, the global business elite converge in Davos, a picturesque town in the Swiss Alps, for the World Economic Forum (WEF). The 48th edition of the WEF will witness yet another gathering of high-powered CEOs, politicians, ministers, academics, celebrities and famous do-gooders.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States President Donald Trump are both expected to attend the WEF. Prime Minister Modi will look to promote India as a thriving investment destination following the passage of certain economic reforms by his government.
In the midst of all these high-power players of the global economy, India’s very own Chetna Sinha, a banker, social activist and president of the microfinance company Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari Bank, will co-chair the WEF between 23 and 26 January, along with other influential women entrepreneurs and leaders, including IMF director Christine Lagarde and former Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg.
For the very first time, the WEF panel at Davos will have all-women co-chairs.
To the uninitiated, Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank is the first cooperative bank licensed by the Reserve Bank of India exclusively for and by rural women in Mhaswad, a drought-prone region of Satara district in Maharashtra.
Founded in 1996, this cooperative bank looks to nurture and support women micro-entrepreneurs, giving them control over the finances and lives.
“In the two decades since the bank was set up with a working capital of ₹7,08,000 raised from among its 1,335 members, it has reached over 3,10,000 women (84,000 among them borrowers), providing them with the financial backing and emotional impetus to become successful entrepreneurs. From its single branch in Mhaswad, Mann Deshi now operates with a working capital of ₹150 crore across seven branches in Maharashtra,” says this Forbes profile on Chetna Sinha.
Chetna’s aim was to empower over a million women entrepreneurs in this country, giving them necessary access to both knowledge and working capital.
Born and raised in Mumbai, Chetna moved to Mhaswad after marrying her husband, Vijay Sinha, who she met during the famous students’ movement led by Jayprakash Narayan in the 1970s.
Living in the drought-prone rural district, Chetna had a ringside view of the difficulties women suffered in this region, especially in matters of finance, and the prevailing social mores prevented them from being treated as viable entrepreneurs.
“WEF 2018 theme is how to create a shared future in a fractured world. Founder of India’s first rural women bank Co-Chair WEF18, I come with solutions for creating a more inclusive and equitable world. All learnt from listening to women at grassroots,” Sinha posted on Twitter recently.
We wish her all the very best.