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News: India’s first women’s bank (Time)

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks during a news conference in WashingtonThis month, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the country’s first  women’s commercial bank.

The Bharatiya Mahila Bank (loosely  translated as Indian Women’s Bank) in Mumbai, calling it a “small step” toward  economic empowerment of Indian women.  With  seven other branches in major Indian cities like Kolkata, Ahmedabad and  Patna (and plans for 500 branches all over India by 2017), the Mahila Bank  wants to give women, from every strata of Indian society, easy access to bank  accounts and loans. “Over centuries, India has produced several accomplished  women leaders in a diverse range of areas — science, medicine, business, sports,  politics and so on,” Singh said. “However, all this does not reflect the average  reality of women in our country. Their social, economic and political  empowerment remains a distant goal.”

Microfinance has been tried many times in South Asia, most notably by the Nobel  Peace Prize–winning Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which has helped millions of  people, the vast majority women, open small businesses. The Mahila Bank, by  contrast, is a proper universal bank that will prioritize women with  collateral-free loans from $800 to $5,000. Participants will be able to start  small businesses but are also encouraged to open savings accounts, luring them  with a higher rate of interest and also the chance to borrow for special  household expenses like renovating kitchen space. “Women in India are smart  and intelligent and great at cutting corners and saving, but they have  traditionally shied away from formal channels of banking and finance,” said Usha  Ananthasubramanian, chairperson and managing director of the bank.  “We want to bring in financial literacy among Indian women, which is very  important for empowerment.”

But not everyone is wowed by the scheme. Despite India’s patriarchal society,  women often handle household finances, but investment decisions remain very much  the husband’s prerogative. (Only 26% of Indian women have bank accounts.) That’s  why women’s-rights advocates fear the Mahila Bank initiative may remain an empty  gesture. “There’s no big thinking behind this. These initiatives have no gender  perspective, they are just women-specific initiatives that isolate women even  more,” says Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research. “I would rather  the government sensitizes normal banks to support women’s economic empowerment.”

For the full story: http://world.time.com/2013/11/29/indian-bank-aims-to-help-women-take-control/

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One comment on “News: India’s first women’s bank (Time)

  1. kohinoormachinetools
    December 4, 2013

    Really appreciate this step of woman banking…
    A lot of women those are fed up of long waiting ques will be highly at comfort..

    Thank you PM…

    Nice Article..

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