India launched the country's first public sector women-only bank this week, called Bharatiya Mahila Bank. The goal is to enhance the financial security of women and facilitate their access to finance and banking services. The bank opens at a time when the safety of women in India is very much in the news and on people's minds.
Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talks with the BBC’s Yogita Limaye in Mumbai about the bank’s prospects. She says women, especially those in rural settings, can intimated by banks and scared to open their own accounts. "At the moment, women across India are saving money in ways that aren't really secure. They're stashing them away in pots and vessels at home."
The bank’s Managing Director Usha Ananthasubramanian said the bank aims to provide loans for women to start their own enterprises.
On Tuesday, with great fanfare and an opening speech from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, The Bharatiya Mahila Bank opened its first seven branches in major cities including the financial center Mumbai. Singh acknowledged what he called a sad reality:
“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."
The bank is run by women and tellers are trained to be especially patient with first-time banking customers.