Evaluating a microfinance cooperatives efforts in advancing gender equality
This study aims at analyzing the performance on promoting women empowerment and gender equality of a microfinance cooperative, Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Microfinance Ltd (BJCMF), in rural Uganda. BJCMF has tried to combine microfinance service along with support to farmer production and marketing, complemented by a capacity building program on gender. On the basis of desk review of literature, focus group discussions, and interviews with microfinance resource persons and clients, the study makes the following observations:
Decentralized model of community-owned microfinance, such as the one being practiced by BJCMF, seems very suitable for the rural areas in the Rwenzori mountains;
Members or clients of the cooperative have a greater role in organizational decision making, and client ownership ensures sustainability of the service;
Group lending modality provided a forum for strengthening mutual support networks and social security structure, as well as a potential platform for delivering multiple services demanded by the poor cost effectively;
Introduction of the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) played a key role in facilitating gender analysis and discussion by participating household members. Thus it created an opportunity for participants to openly debate differences and similarities in their perception on gender equality, often leading to a consensus on most of the issues.