Rural Mhaswad may have been once known as a small sleepy town, but now it is an entrepreneurial seat for rural women thanks to one woman, Chetna Sinha. Due to Mann Deshi Bank and foundation started by her, communities have better access to finances to help them become financially.
Went door to door encouraging women to open bank accounts
Most rural women have been married young and with little to no education and they can still have access to loans to fuel their small business. Whether it’s selling milk or making baskets and brooms, Mhaswad in Maharashtra’s Satara district has been buzzing with women’s dreams being made a reality. Today, the Mann Deshi Bank is run by women and for women and has supported over 300,000 women and girls through their teaching programmes while also helping them reach markets. A huge advocate of doorstep banking, Chetna Sinha’s Mann Deshi has been helping women by actually going to them and meeting their needs. She also realised that since rural women have very little opportunities to earn a stable income, more opportunities to earn have to be created for them.
A missing toilet in her Mhaswad home started it all
Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, which was the prime of political activism and altruism, Sinha was doing her BCom and later a master’s in economics. Drawn to socialist politics, it was through this that she met her husband who was from Mhaswad and moved to the area in 1987. The move from a city to a village wasn’t a cakewalk, she said, “When I arrived, I had no idea they didn’t have a toilet in the house. The next morning, when I asked Vijay about it, he told me to go to the fields behind the house and carry a stick should pigs come following. I decided that’s it; we needed to change a few things in the village.” From helping the villagers to campaign for their basic rights, to teaching them about savings, she knew it was high time that the village has a bank.
Though she was first rejected by the RBI when she made the petition; they cited that the villagers were illiterate. Though they couldn’t read and write, during the second petition they shocked the officials when they could calculate interest faster than them. The rest they say is history.
Image credit: The Better India