India gets first all-woman bank; PM hails “empowering” move

Mumbai: India on Tuesday got its first all-woman bank, which will be universal in nature, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launching the Bharatiya Mahila Bank as a small step towards empowerment of women.
The bank, a pioneering initiative announced in the Union Budget, was launched with a corpus of Rs 1,000 crore and will have seven branches in major cities to start with.
Coinciding with the 96th birthday of late Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the first branch at a function here in the presence of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, coalition leaders Sharad Pawar and Farooq Abdullah, besides Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
Singh said women lag behind men in areas such as entrepreneurial skills, employment, literacy and health.
"The setting up of the Bharatiya Mahila Bank is a small step towards economic empowerment of our women," he said.
"The sad reality is that women in India face discrimination and hardship at home, school, at their places of work and in public places. Women's social, economic and political empowerment remains a distant goal.
"We have gathered here to witness the beginning of a unique institution," Singh said, adding, "The bank will provide financial services predominantly to women and women self-help groups."