MicroFinance & Women
My father handed me a paper the other day earmarked “must read”. It was about “Women Empowerment Through MicroFinance”. A fairly new concept for me, I found it interesting. Let me share a few points.
First of all, what is MicroFinance? Microfinance is a fairly recent term which deals with providing financial services to low-income households and the self-employed who do not have access to banking and other finance related services. Remember Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner. He is a banker, economist and a leading microfinancier in Bangladesh. He founded Grameen Bank, which caters to the financial needs of the poor – which is what microfinancing is all about.
“Empowerment implies expansion of assets and capabilities of people to influence control and hold accountable institution that affects their lives“. Empowering women puts the spotlight on education and employment which are an essential element to a sustainable development.
MicroFinance is emerging as a powerful instrument for poverty alleviation in the new economy. In India, microfinance Self-Help-Groups aim at providing a cost-effective mechanism for providing financial services to the unreached poor. MicroFinance for women has received extensive recognition as a strategy for poverty reduction, gender equalization and for overall economic development. Nevertheless ensuring that the microfinance sector continues to move forward in relation to gender equality and women’s empowerment it will require a long-term strategic process of the same order as the one in relation to poverty.
This will involve:
- Ongoing exchange of experience and innovation between practitioners.
- Constant awareness and questioning of ‘bad practice’.
- Bringing together the different players in the sector to develop coherent policies and for gender equality.
There will also be a need for innovation to ensure that access to microfinances will result in significant contribution to women’s empowerment. Different women have different needs, even though they are often subject to similar forms of discrimination. Some are extremely successful businesswomen, others are labourers struggling to raise a family on their own or with a violent husband but still capable with support to improve their situation with appropriate savings and credit. There is a need for a whole spectrum of opportunity in service provision.
This, according to me is not only a women’s human right, but it is necessary for poverty reduction and sustained economic growth. I am hoping to study more about this practice, as it seems a very promising and thorough mode for development.
Reference: Gender, Empowerment and MicroFinance by Linda Mayoux