Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Tony’s Chocolloquium | Tackling inequality with Chetna Gala Sinha

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- Never provide poor solutions to poor people

but they have also taught me that my courage

is my capital.

- [Amelia] 10 minutes, two changemakers.

- I'm not just gonna sit down and let this happen again.

- [Amelia] One sweet solution.

- Join me, Amelia Hy, in conversation

with Tony's favourite changemakers.

- Hey Amelia, how are you?

- In a five part series that addresses shaking up

the status quo.

- If this is the future that we're headed towards,

holy crap.

- And addressing some of society's issues.

India is the world's second largest population,

yet millions of its women are without access

to a bank account.

That means they can't take out a loan to invest in property

or in business or plan for their future.

So how did a city girl from Mumbai manage to provide access

for over half a million women in rural India?

Chetna Gala Sinha has worked tirelessly

for women's financial rights for over two decades

and I can't wait to see what she has to say.

(phone ringing)

- Hello, Chetna.

- Hi Amelia, how are you?

- I'm fine, thank you and how are you?

- I'm fine.

(upbeat music)

- So let's start with an easy question.

Where are you from and what brought you

to where you're sitting right now?

- I was born and raised in Mumbai.

I was always a Bombay girl.

I was studying in Mumbai University

and I was doing my undergraduation program in Mumbai.

At that time I met a Gandhian leader, Jayaprakash Narayan.

I was very much attracted toward the Ghandhian organisation,

Gandhian Movement and I traveled across the country

with him, Jayaprakash Narayan

and went to the villages of India.

And in that village, will I be able to survive?

This was, I'm talking about three decades before

and today, yes, I'm here, I have survived.

Not only that, we have created the world's first

rural women's bank, Mann Deshi Bank.

(upbeat music)

- But Chetna, before we start with the bank,

I wanna know what ignited that spirit inside of you?

- In the villages, when I was going across the villages,

I saw that people in this drought prone area

in Mhaswad, in Satara, women were working on the sides

and they were breaking stone, breaking the stones manually.

And these women were doing that on the construction

of the road, which actually it is given in jails

for life imprisonment, such a hard work.

And so I felt that this is inhuman.

You cannot give such work to human beings

and I decided that in the villages of India,

if people are not getting decent work,

if people are not getting decent wages,

there is a need to work there.

When women wanted to do savings,

Kantabai, a street vendor.

She was doing a business of blacksmith

and she wanted to save her money.

Banks had denied opening her account.

- Why?

- Well, I wasn't sure that if Kantabai

has any surplus of saving, but Kantabai was insistent.

She said that I'm doing my business on the street

and I do not have a shelter.

In summer, it is very hot.

Out here the summer, the temperature is around

47 degrees Celsius and in monsoon, it rains.

So I want to buy a tarpaulin sheet to cover my family

and that's why I want to open a saving account.

So then I thought that there are so many women

in the villages, who want to open the saving account,

who want to save their money.

Who want to do the financial planning

and banks are not opening their account.

So why not start a bank for women like these?

And so we decided that we'll set up the bank

for women like Kantabai and we applied

for the banking license, but you know what?

We didn't get the license.

Our license was rejected by the Reserve Bank of India.

- What do you think was the main reason why they,

just because of the lack of initial funds to open an account

or what do you think was the reason for their hesitation?

- Because they said that our promoting members,

our women members are not literate

and when there was a signature,

they had given a thumb impression.

On that ground, Reserve Bank rejected the license,

saying that we cannot issue a license to the bank,

who's promoting members are non-literate.

You know what our women said?

We will learn to read and write from today

and our literacy classes started.

Every day in every village,

women will come together after their work, all day hard work

in the evening and sit to learn to read and write.

- Wow.

- They were so sure that they will learn to read

and write and apply again for the banking license.

After five months, we applied again.

I decided that I will not go alone.

Women will accompany me to Reserve Bank of India.

We went to Mumbai, 15 women accompanied me.

I wasn't sure how are we going to convince the officer

but I could see the confidence in our women

and they challenged the officer,

that we cannot read and write, but we can count,

and they challenged the officer asking him that,

asked us to calculate the interest of any principal amount

and if we fail, don't issue the license,

but tell your officers to do it without calculator

and see who can calculate faster.

- And what happened?

- I'm proud to share with you that we got

the first license of the first rural women's bank

in this country.

Even today, sharing, I'm getting goosebumps.

Kantabai is owning her own house.

- I'm happy to hear that.

- She has, she owns her own property

and these women are getting dividends

from the profit of the bank.

- It's an amazing achievement.

I wanna go back to something that you mentioned

because it's also very relevant in the cocoa industry

and it's the concept of women having autonomy

over their own finances and having the ability later on

to own land or purchase property, or take out a loan.

Why is it so important in rural India as well?

- It used to happen at that time

that their money were taken away by their husbands,

just to, for the drinking.

- Right. - And so

it was so important for our women,

that whatever we earn, we have a control on that money

and we will decide where to spend the money,

and in our case of our women, they will always

want to spend money for the children's education.

They would always want to spend money to buy something

for their children.

It's very interesting, right?

I'm surrounded by so many strong women,

but if you see that how many women entrepreneurs are there

in India, if you, I generally don't like to talk

with percentage and ratio, but in every 100 entrepreneurs,

4% of women who are in entrepreneurship

and one would be surprised, right?

(upbeat music)

- It's so empowering to hear these stories

because we're living in a world now

where if we don't work together and share knowledge

with each other and have these conversations,

then you don't know how to keep going

and to keep motivating.

What are some of the things that the bank

needs to consider moving into the future?

- The one biggest thing which I have learned

from people, from our women

is that whenever they have any issue, listen to them.

It was very important not to get into and advise them

but try to find the solutions and facilitate that.

It's also not just taking the challenge

but understanding that what you are doing is, is it right?

And this is when we were starting this digital banking

with our women, many women said

that we cannot remember our pin number

and I said that maybe you, we will train you,

we will provide you financial literacy

to all those women to remember and they said, no,

find some other solution.

And so we thought that, how do we create a market

for all our women entrepreneurs.

We started doing Zoom calls and doing the workshop remotely

to explain women that how you can do the digital banking

and I am so happy.

So many of our women have been able to bring their products

on digital platform

and so many of them are getting the client

who are doing e-shopping.

- Did anyone ever say no to you?

- Yes, many people said no, right.

But I always saw that the people who said no,

they were highly educated.

This is a very aggressive and a bit arrogant statement.

- Don't worry, don't worry.

- But I saw that the no came from

the highly educated people.

The wisdom of yes came from the people

who were not able to go to school.

So these are like thousands of such stories of our women,

whom I always say that they have taught me

that never provide poor solutions to poor people,

but they have also taught me that my courage is my capital.

And their courage has been mine.

- That's amazing, Chetna, thank you so much

for all of your insight and knowledge and wisdom.

Really appreciate chatting with you.

- Thank you so much, I also appreciated

sharing my experiences with you, Amelia.

- Thank you so much and hope to be in touch soon.

- Hope to meet you sometime, bye.

- Thank you for participating

in our conversation with Chetna.

For me, it's really inspiring to hear how rejection

can become one's main motivation in life.

But it takes more than a 10 minute conversation

to create a fair society, so please go to our website now

and read more about how you can support Tony's mission

and other sweet solutions from the series.

The Description of Tony’s Chocolloquium | Tackling inequality with Chetna Gala Sinha