Reaching out to more number of self-help groups to extend them credit at a relatively low rate of interest would be a challenge to the Indian banking sector, Katherine S. Dhanani, US Consul-General, Hyderabad, opined here on Thursday.

Ms. Dhanani observed that women may not feel the need to depend on loans of a comparatively high rate of interest extended by micro finance institutions if only banks were able to reach out to them through self-help groups.

The Consul-General was speaking to mediapersons after interacting with a good number of women, who are members of the self-help groups financed by the Coastal Local Area Bank Limited, at Babu Jagjivaram Ram colony in Poranki village and also at the Kanuru branch of the bank at Ashok Nagar on Bandar Road. In the afternoon, she paid a visit to Atmakur village near Mangalagiri and interacted with the families of weavers that are beneficiaries of the loans extended through self help groups by the bank.

Visibly impressed by the confidence shown by the women she interacted with, Ms. Dhanani said that the “diversification” shown by the beneficiaries of the loans, who were doing more than one livelihood activity, was worth appreciating. At Poranki village, she interacted with two group leaders – B. Sarojini and P. Samrajyam – and Sunitha, a member of a group, with the help of the bank managing director I. Pardha Saradhi, who acted as translator. The bank chairman Jayaram Chigurupati was present.

The Consul-General also visited a couple of households where the women were carrying out a combination of livelihood activities like running a grocery kiosk, tailoring, operating a coin box telephone, a grinder and managing a dairy.

When Ms. Dhanani sought to know from the women whether their husbands ever tried to stop them from doing what they were doing for the fear of “dominating” them, Ms. Samrajyam was quick to clarify that they had never encountered such a problem. “In fact, we're highly obliged to our husbands for their support,” she said. As if sounding anxious, she asked the bankers: “Don't stop giving us loans on this pretext.” It created mirthful moments for Ms. Dhanani and the bankers.

During her interaction with the women in the bank, the Consul-General expressed hope that they would one day be able to visit the US by building up enough savings. “As a woman I am particularly impressed by your dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit.”

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