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MANN DESHI

seeks to empower rural women by arming them with business skills and giving them access to savings opportunities. GMSP’s grant supports Mann Deshi’s Business School on Wheels for women living in and around the Navi Mumbai area. 

women set up bank accounts 

95,000

450,000

women attended 20 business schools 

people reached through Community Radio Programme 

150,000

CHALLENGE

In 1996, Kantabai, a welder who lived on the street in Mhaswad in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, needed a safe space to keep her daily savings out of the reach of her alcoholic husband. But every bank she approached refused her service. In India, there are countless Kantabais: women, who through personal circumstance or cultural restriction, have no access to institutional banking services and no opportunities for personal development. 

In rural Maharashtra, women juggle multiple roles: they manage household responsibilities and childcare but are also expected to help out on the family farm or work as day labourers. Many run small businesses out of their homes or at weekly markets. Despite their active participation in the workforce, these women have little control over their earnings and are stuck within the confines of socially prescribed expectations. With no financial literacy or business skills, they are unable to realise their full potential. 

ACTION

Mann Deshi set up a mobile banking unit for women who could not reach the bank in Mhaswad. 

 

The success of the bank motivated women to want to learn more. In response, Mann Deshi launched a business school to deliver courses on financial literacy, agri-business training and enterprise development. Later, the Business School on Wheels was set up to provide courses in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka. Mann Deshi then oversaw the establishment of the first chamber of commerce for micro-entrepreneurs, helping women take their businesses to the next level. 

Today, Mann Deshi also serves and empowers communities through various projects including a community radio, a water conservation programme, a bicycle scheme for young girls, a sports initiative for young athletes and a farm to market initiative that helps small farmers access markets for their goods.