Source: Rajasthan Patrika-Pariwar Magazine (24-April-2019)

Chetna Gala Sinha: The women behind Mann Deshi Bank & Foundation

Chetna Gala Sinha is an Indian social entrepreneur who working to empower women in rural India by teaching entrepreneurial skills and in 1996 she decided to set up the first rural bank for women in India to provide a safe space for women to save as well as gain affordable and easy access to credit.she is an Indian social activist working to empower women in drought prone areas of rural India by teaching entrepreneurial skills and providing them access to land and other means of production.Chetna Sinha and six other women chaired the 48th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, on 23–26 January 2018.Sinha grew up in Mumbai in the ’70s and ’80s in the heyday of political activism.

While in college—she did her BCom and has a master’s in economics from Mumbai University—she was drawn to Jayaprakash Narayan’s brand of socialist politics.She suffered her first setback when the RBI rejected her application, in 1996, on the grounds that some of the promoting members were non-literate. Sinha came back to the village dejected, but the other villagers pushed her to organise literacy classes. In five months, Sinha went back to the RBI with a fresh application and the women in tow.She is the founder and chairperson of the Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari Bank, a microfinance bank which lends to women in rural areas. She is also the founder and president of the Mann Deshi Foundation. Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari Bank was the first bank in the country for and by rural women to get a cooperative license from Reserve Bank of India(RBI).

In the two decades since the bank was set up (in 1997) 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.The drive remained relevant even after two decades, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation last November, leaving the local vendors in the lurch: Some sold their wares for whatever they could, way below the market prices, some others gave away their ₹500 notes for a lower value. Mann Deshi officials collected coins from the State Bank of India and went from door-to-door and in the weekly markets to exchange them for old ₹500 notes.

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