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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8930
JPY
USD
117.98
GBP
USD
0.6673
CAD
USD
1.2445
INR
USD
61.498

Rates may not be current.