European Microfinance Week (#EMW2017), organized by the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP), concluded Friday in Luxembourg, with a provocative plenary that asked where the sector is heading in the next five to ten years.
The closing plenary followed two days of workshops and plenaries: one plenary profiling the three finalists of the European Microfinance Award 2017 on Microfinance for Housing and another that sought to critically examine one of the core orthodoxies of microfinance – that outreach to women clients increases women’s empowerment. Entitled “Women clients ≠ women empowerment: beyond the numbers”, the session, moderated by Yasmin Bin-Humam of CGAP, saw speakers Bobbi Gray of Grameen Foundation, Imran Matin of Innovations for Poverty Action, Anna Zanghi of Mastercard and Bdour Al-Hyari of Microfund for Women (Jordan) argued that pursuing empowerment “requires understanding women and their needs within the environment in which they live…and considering them not as individual clients, but…as members of households”. A deeper look at the data, they argued, demands a multi-dimensional and nuanced response, that goes far beyond just how many women can receive microcredit.
Beyond the plenaries, this year’s conference involved a particularly diverse and interesting range of workshop sessions organized across six main streams: investors, donors and funders; social performance; green microfinance; rural finance; digital innovations; and the European Microfinance Award theme of Housing.