News / Economy

New Indian Women's Bank Promotes Economic Empowerment

An all-female bank staff are pictured at their terminals during the inauguration of the first branch of the Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB), India's first state owned women's bank, in Mumbai, Nov. 19, 2013.
An all-female bank staff are pictured at their terminals during the inauguration of the first branch of the Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB), India's first state owned women's bank, in Mumbai, Nov. 19, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
Hoping to offer economic empowerment for women, India has opened a bank to cater especially to women, aiming to give them easier access to facilities like bank accounts and loans.
 
Komal Devi, who works as a maid in three houses in Gurgaon, near New Delhi, manages to save $20 every month out of her $100 earnings, but until now she has had nowhere to put that money.
 
Devi said she has attempted to open a bank account many times, but has never been able to do so because she migrated from a village, meaning she has no proof of identity banks in the city will accept. She is concerned that her savings are not secure. Left in the house, sometimes her husband takes away the money; sometimes it gets spent.
Maid Komal Devi wants to open a bank account for her savings, VOA/Anjana Pasricha.Maid Komal Devi wants to open a bank account for her savings, VOA/Anjana Pasricha.
x
Maid Komal Devi wants to open a bank account for her savings, VOA/Anjana Pasricha.
Maid Komal Devi wants to open a bank account for her savings, VOA/Anjana Pasricha.

To help women like her gain better access to banking services, India has opened a public sector bank, called Bharatiya Mahila Bank, to cater primarily to women.
 
Inaugurating its first branch in Mumbai this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed out that although some Indian women have become business leaders, the vast majority face huge disadvantages. 
 
"The sad reality is that women in India face discrimination and hardship at home, at school, at their place of work and in public places. Their social, economic and political empowerment remains a distant goal… They score below men in literacy, in health status, in employment potential, and in entrepreneurial skills,” said Singh.
 
The Prime Minister has called the founding of the bank a small step toward economic empowerment.   
 
In a patriarchal society where in most cases men control a family’s financial resources, nearly three quarters of Indian women do not have a bank account. Per capita access to bank credit is also far lower for women than men. 
 
Officials say the new bank will facilitate the opening of savings accounts for poor and disadvantaged women. It will also encourage women entrepreneurs by making it easier for them to get access to loans. For example, the bank will offer loans of up to $400 to women to start small businesses, even if they cannot offer collateral - a problem in a country where property is mostly owned by men. It will also encourage businesses and products that help women by offering credit for enterprises such as crèches and catering services.    
 
The new bank will begin operations with seven branches in major cities and has plans to expand to 500 over four years across urban and rural areas. The bank’s board of directors has eight women on it, and a majority of the staff is female.     
 
For Komal Devi, the Bharatiya Mahila Bank offers a ray of hope.
 
Devi said she recently bought a gold pendant to convert her savings into the only asset that most Indian women have - jewelry. She had no other options because there was no place to keep her money. However, she insists, she would have preferred the security of a bank account.
 
Experts say the new bank’s success will be judged by the inroads it makes into rural areas, where banking facilities are poor and where women suffer the worst gender biases.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7492
JPY
USD
102.27
GBP
USD
0.5960
CAD
USD
1.0950
INR
USD
61.300

Rates may not be current.