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‘Their Courage is My Capital’: Activist Gives 2 Lakh Rural Women Financial Agency

chetna gala sinha

Chetna Gala Sinha (65) started the Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank in 1997 after her neighbour was not allowed to open a savings account in multiple banks. Watch how Chetna, with the support of rural women, succeeds in establishing the bank in Western Maharashtra.

Chetna Gala Sinha (65), a farmer and activist with a long history of advocacy, established the Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank in 1997. It was the first bank in India created specifically for rural women and operated by them.

Chetna, who was born and brought up in Mumbai, was motivated by Jayaprakash Narayan, a follower of Gandhi, to devote herself to rural India while she was still in college. Afterwards, she fell in love with a farmer leader, got married, and relocated to a small village that lacked even basic amenities such as running water and toilets.

Following several years of residing in the village and giving birth to three children, Chetna was approached by her neighbour Kantabai one day. She requested assistance in opening a savings bank account. So, Chetna accompanied Kantabai to the bank, where she was denied service because Kantabai, a welder, could not deposit a substantial sum of money.

The incident sparked something within Chetna that prompted her to seek a banking licence from the Reserve Bank of India, allowing other rural women like Kantabai to exercise their right to save money, regardless of the amount.

To make this happen, 1,335 women pooled savings amounting to Rs 7.8 lakh, and the bank was set up.

At present, Mann Deshi Bank serves over two lakh account holders across eight branches in Western Maharashtra. It develops new financial products to support female micro-entrepreneurs.

The institution has received multiple awards — such as the International Innovation Award, the ‘Nari Shakti’ Award, the Best Eco-Tech Award and the Best Women’s Bank Award.

Watch this video to learn how Chetna overcame multiple hurdles to set up the bank:

Edited by Divya Sethu