Why we felt she needed to be included in this list: Chetna Gala Sinha made history when she founded the Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank, the first banking system for women managed by women in India and geared towards helping rural women of Maharashtra be financially literate. Her TED Talk on the experience has garnered over 1 million views and she continues to teach entrepreneurial skills and advocate for female empowerment through multiple avenues.
When striving to lead a life of gender equality, some people step back when they’re told “no,” but thankfully Chetna Gala Sinha is not one of them.
In 1997, fueled by the motivation to help the women of a rural village in Maharashtra, India change their financial situations, Sinha rallied community members and founded Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank, the first bank for and run by women in India. Not an easy feat since Sinha’s first attempt at creating the bank was rejected in 1996 because some of the promoting members were illiterate.
Refusing to give up, Sinha and her team of women persevered at the Reserve Bank of India ended up impressing them with their ability to calculate numbers faster than bank employees. Through the dedication and efforts of Sinha and others in the community, the bank has since evolved to reach and support over 300,000 women and has grown to operate with seven branches in Maharashtra. Beyond bank accounts, they offer online money transfers, loans, pensions, mobile banking and more.
For me, the potential of women is not just in doing something for themselves or their families: we inspire the women to change society.
Recognizing the importance of driving social change holistically, Sinha did not stop at creating the bank and went on to launch the Mann Deshi Foundation, a nonprofit that offers literacy programs, business school, community events to support rural entrepreneurs and more. One of the goals of the foundation is to support the restructuring of the agricultural systems in rural villages to give farmers greater (and fair) power and the opportunity to negotiate market value alongside minimizing waste. Making a positive impact on thousands, the organization has a goal to reach one million women by 2024.
Sinha hails from Mumbai, India and has a master’s degree in economics from Mumbai University. She grew up in a politically active environment and it was through her activism that she met her husband, Vijay Sinha, who shares her passion for change. Soon after they married, she moved to Mhaswad and reality sunk in when she realized the house didn’t have a toilet and she had to go in the fields. That’s when she knew things needed to change and she started petitioning for toilets in the house, electricity in the village and other infrastructure needs.
We design products that give women access and control of their finances. If access to banking becomes easy, then the poor will gain the most. That should be the key motive behind technology and digitization.Economic Times Of India
Her leadership and activism has been recognized beyond the borders of India and Sinha’s TED Talk, in which she shares her story and promotes social change, garnered over one million views. She also received the Godfrey Phillips Bravery Amodini Award in 2009, the Entrepreneurship Development Award by Entrepreneurs International in Pune in 2010 and, more recently, Forbes India’s Leadership Award: Entrepreneur with Social Impact in 2017.
Sinha continues to achieve success as a social activist while she works on instilling opportunities for rural villagers to receive basic human rights, supporting gender-equality, building female financial security and inspiring entrepreneurship.
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