Despite rapid growth in India, gender disparities in economic activity have remained deep and persistent, with women making up just 24% of the country’s workforce. The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women has been working with the Mann Deshi Foundation to support women entrepreneurs in the Maharashtra region of India. Together we targeted a currently underserved sector, reaching remote and drought affected communities where rural women depend largely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Many women lack the skills and networks needed to scale up their businesses, whilst conservative cultural norms can make it difficult for them to gain full financial autonomy.
Launched in 2015, this project has supported 550 women entrepreneurs in the Satara and Pune districts of the Maharashtra region to grow their micro enterprises into profitable and sustainable businesses. We provided women entrepreneurs with training and mentoring to guide them on how to successfully manage their assets, access financial services and achieve key business goals. The women entrepreneurs were also introduced to new marketing and networking opportunities, and 502 previously “unbanked” women were supported in opening their own accounts through the Mann Deshi Bank.
59% of the women involved increased their number of clients, and 45% increased their revenue. 64 new jobs were also created as a result of the project.
‘With the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, the Mann Deshi Foundation is working to empower women by providing vital access to capital and market linkages. This project aims to increase women entrepreneurs’ ability to start and scale their businesses, giving them skills, ability, and access to financial services.’
– Chetna Sinha, President, Mann Deshi Foundation
The Mann Deshi Foundation has been supporting rural women and their families in India since 1996. Their mission is to promote women’s economic empowerment by providing them with business and leadership skills, knowledge on property rights, personal development opportunities and new technologies. With headquarters in Mhaswad, a village in Satara district south of Mumbai, their activities reach much of Maharashtra and Karnataka.