IFC proposes investment of up to $10M in SEWA Bank

Microfinance Focus January 10, 2011: In a bid to provide assistance to expand capacity of the Ahmedabad based Shree Mahila SEWA Sahakari Bank, the International Financial Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group has proposed an investment of up to $ 10M subject to RBI and other regulatory approval. SEWA bank, an initiative of the SEWA group founded by Ela Bhatt will use the funding to expand its geographic presence and strengthen capacity.

The project, also IFC’s first investment in an all women’s cooperative bank will integrate 1.3 million members through the expansion of SEWA Bank. This will be first witnessed in the rural areas of Gujarat, and SEWA eventually plans to become a first class Indian bank serving poor women across India. The project will also facilitate access of formal banking services to poor women in the informal sector.

SEWA, the Self Employed Women’s Association was started as a trade union in 1972 in Ahmedabad by Ms. Ela Bhatt before it began to support poor self-employed women working mostly in the informal sector, spread beyond Ahmedabad city to rural Gujarat and other states.

SEWA Bank was registered as a co-operative bank in 1974 and operates under the dual control of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the state government of Gujarat. Its operational area is restricted to Ahmedabad city and a few other districts of Gujarat. As of September 30, 2010, SEWA Bank recorded providing loans to 25,000 borrowers and mobilizing deposits from 348,000 savers.

IFC's investment in SEWA Bank would facilitate provision of financial services to businesses created by women entrepreneurs who have historically lacked access to banking services.


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