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India launches first ever all-women bank
November 19, 2013, 10:47 am


Millions of Indian women lack access to finance due to illiteracy and gender discrimination [AP]

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday launched the country’s first women only bank with seven branches to be operational immediately.

The bank will be set up with an initial capital of 10 billion rupees and will aim to remove hurdles for Indian women in accessing credit from banks.

“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” said Dr Singh at the inauguration of the bank in Mumbai.

“Our women have minimal access to finance and financial products. We need to change this state of affairs to enable our women to contribute to the growth processes of the mainstream economy. The setting up of the Bharatiya Mahila Bank is a small step towards the economic empowerment of our women” added the prime minister.

Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram announced the bank during his budget speech earlier this year.

The Bharatiya Mahila Bank (Indian Women’s Bank) will look to have 25 branches by the end of March next year, including branches in rural regions.

“Women are heads of many banks today, including two public sector banks, but there is no bank that exclusively serves women. Can we have a bank that lends mostly to women and women-run businesses, that supports women SHGs and women’s livelihood, that employs predominantly women, and that addresses gender-related aspects of empowerment and financial inclusion? I think we can,” Chidambaram said previously.

Women make up roughly half the world’s population, but 70 per cent of the world’s poor people.

A third of small-and medium-sized businesses in emerging markets are owned by women.

Millions of Indian women lack access to finance due to illiteracy and gender discrimination.

Central government funds for India’s Ministry of Women and Child Development was increased in 2013 by 9.2 per cent from the previous year to 971 billion rupees.

Source: Agencies