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I have learnt lessons from the fractured world, says Chetna Sinha in Davos

Rashi Bisaria     January 24, 2018

An all-women panel of co-chairs at World Economic Forum (WEF) 2018 in Davos today held a session with the theme 'Creating a shared future in a fractured world'. Each one spoke about the fractures in their respective fields of work and life and the possible solutions.

Moderated by the Managing Director of IMF, Christine Lagarde, the panel consisted of names like Indian social activist Chetna Sinha who has empowered women by providing them entrepreneurial skills and access to doorstep finance. Among the other speakers were the CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti, Erna Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway, and Ginni Rometty, chairman, president, and CEO of IBM.

Speaking first about the fractures that existed in the world, Solberg threw light on how some people felt they were being left behind. "The biggest challenge today is that we should be inclusive enough and that nobody should be left behind. This feeling of being left behind leads to political instability. Young people all around the world feel there was more hope earlier but they feel hopeless because enough jobs are not getting created. There is a lot of finance in this world, too many possibilities but too much corruption also, financial flaws all of which fuel terror, fueling conflict and dividing societies," she explained.

Jobs and a lack of them became a recurring theme as the panelists shared their thoughts. Speaking about emerging technologies, the CEO of IBM, Rometty stated how technology could also prove a threat if people were not prepared for it. "Emerging technologies can solve a lot of problems. In India there is one oncologist for fourteen hundred patients and we are rolling out these technologies that can bring about world class standards, on the one hand. On the other hand they stand to be the greatest challenge of our times. Do these technologies displace jobs? The point is they will change all jobs. So now the issue is, have we prepared people for this world? Or are we creating a world which is divided between the haves and the have nots. This is both the greatest opportunity and the greatest challenge of our times," she said.

Banker, social activist and president of the microfinance company Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari Bank, Chetna Sinha highlighted how much there was left to be done in India, how young girls needed education and an entry into a better world. Describing the plight of street vendors and the marginalised, Sinha said, "In India there are so many people doing business on the streets. We have weekly 'haats' or 'mandis', these people do business on the road and mostly women have no access to finance, no ways to lend or borrow. So they end up with the money lenders, who provide them with very costly finance but at their doorstep. They pay such a high interest for what they are doing, so even if they are making profits those are drained out."

Sinha revealed twenty years ago she had not thought she would start a bank. But with a group of courageous women, who educated themselves in order to launch a bank, she could muster the courage. Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari Bank was the first bank in the country for and by rural women which got a cooperative license from Reserve Bank of India. "There are the lessons I have learnt from the fractured world. This bank is established with no external support and these women rock with doorstep banking. While working with the fractured world I saw the solution. Now these women are looking at the second level of financing," explained Sinha. Sinha is launching a $1 bn fund for women entrepreneurs at Davos.

Ending on a hopeful note, Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway, stated, "We must never underestimate people's creativity and ambitions and ability to change the world themselves. There are more than enough things to do  we just need to make sure that they are paid for. There are more than enough jobs in this world that should be done, we just need business models for them."

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