According to the Bank's official Profile:
"The Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank (Mann Deshi) is a
regulated cooperative bank run by and for women. Located
in western Maharashtra, its mission is to provide women in
these drought-prone areas with the tools necessary for achieving
financial independence and self-sufficiency. Founded in 1997,
it is India’s first rural financial institution to receive a cooperative
license from the Reserve Bank of India."
An interesting fact I just learned while researching them is that RBI or the Reserve Bank of India has a law that all commercial banks operating within national borders must designate at least 15% of it's lending to people who constitute "the weaker sector." Naturally, these banks are encouraged to partner with MFIs (Microfinance Institutions), who can serve as "business facilitators." This sector constitutes 80% of MD's clients. Currently, Mann Deshi is partnering with HSBC Bank, and HDFC, as well as pursuing partnerships with other commercial banks in India.
Beyond its microfinance initiatives, MD has taken on some incredible new projects. Most notably, is the Mann Deshi Micro Business School for Rural Women:
"On December 2, 2006, Mann Deshi launched a Business School through a partnership with HSBC Bank. This school provides more than just vocational training for women; it teaches rural women the financial literacy and confidence building they need to successfully open or expand their micro-businesses. Designed for women without formal education and girls who drop out of high school, this Business School fills a capacity gap in the microfinance community by offering the vocational and financial training to rural women. Offering diverse courses from tailoring to computer kiosk operator to driving, These courses will be the first time for many rural women to be in an academic setting and receive a comprehensive professional training.
Since opening, the Mann Deshi Micro Business School has experienced high demand for the courses. In 2007, the Business School will open in 2 locations, with plans to expand operations to all of Mann Desihi’s branch and extension locations, including New Bombay. Also, a “Business School on Wheels” will become operational, bringing a mobile classroom to the remote areas of Maharashtra."
In my time there, I hope to see first hand how this business school is enriching the lives of the women of Satara. I have heard amazing things from people who are familiar with Mann Deshi, but I am excited to see for myself how this innovative idea is being put into practice.