Money Can't Buy Me Love? Re-Evaluating Gender, Credit and Empowerment in Rural Bangladesh

What are the insights gained from participatory evaluations?

The paper addresses the effectiveness of credit in addressing the needs and priorities of the poor and women's empowerment and uses evaluation data from the Small Enterprise Development Project (SEDP) to calibrate other methods.

It sees that there are conflicting - both positive and negative - evaluations of the impacts of the same projects. The paper examines Bangladeshi examples of the effect of credit which indicate that:

  • Conflicting views on the effectiveness of credit are not primarily empirical conflicts;
  • Evaluations are based on differing models of power in the context of gender relations;
  • None of the evaluations have sought out the perspectives of the beneficiaries and participants - poor and rural women.

The paper reports on the participatory evaluation of the SEDP, notes how the findings differ when they are gathered from the viewpoint of women loanees and underlines findings which show that:

  • Empowerment is a multidimensional process of change and impact relates to the situation prior to the loan in terms of personal achievement, intra-household relations, community standing and financial control;
  • Qualitative outputs showed that the stress women placed on their own sense of enhanced self-worth was underplayed in previous evaluations while the point of individualized control over resources was overplayed;
  • Indicators of empowerment should be contextualized to local goals;
  • An automatic assumption of a direct correlation between empowerment and women's access to credit has to be ruled out. Empowerment should be seen as an expansion in the range of potential choices available to women;
  • Women are not a homogenous category and are a highly diverse group of individuals with distinct personal histories affected by wider social changes.

About this Publication

By Kabeer, N.