Microfinance and Women's Empowerment: Do Relationships Between Women Matter? Lessons from Rural Southern India

Case study
Date Published: 
Nov 2010
Author: 
Guerin, I., Kumar, S. & Agier, I.

Understanding women’s perspectives on empowerment through microfinance

This paper highlights the impact of relationships between women on empowerment through microfinance. It is based on qualitative research conducted in rural Tamil Nadu, South India.

The paper analyzes the influence of situational constraints, aspirations and expectations on women’s understanding of empowerment. It uses data from empirical field work and narratives of women to understand issues such as female inferiority, dependence on men and power equations among women. The paper demonstrates that microcredit appropriations are shaped by power relationships among women.

The study reveals that women do not seek to challenge pre-existing hierarchical frameworks through microfinance. Rather, they try to improve their position within these frameworks. Policy implications include:

  • Need to explore diversity and complexity of relationships between women;
  • Need to study interactions between the two dimensions of power, namely domination and agency;
  • Relevance of heterogeneity of female positions and diversity of female identities.
Type: 
Case study
Region: 
South Asia
Country: 
India