Chetna Sinha was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.
Chetna Sinha founded the Woman’s bank, Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari, a micro finance institution that makes loans to women in rural areas. To date, the bank has served more than 27,000 women and enabled more than 40,000 families to buy homes.
When you started Mann Deshi bank, what strategies did you use to build its success?
When I first went to Bombay to submit applications for loans to women, the license was denied on the grounds that they were illiterate. I was so shocked and nervous, but the women had so much energy and passion.
They just said, “So what? We will learn to read and write.” Their courage captured me. So we came together for classes to read and write for more than three months.
Then, when I was setting up the bank, one of our many ideas for different products was a small savings box. Without asking any of the women, we ordered 5,000 boxes.
The women told us, “It’s my hard earned money that I save by not buying another biscuit for my child. If I keep it in this, my husband will come and break it, and just take it!”
So I learned many times that I have to involve the women in the process. It was also clear that it’s not just about finance or savings, but about giving women control over their assets.