From the Margin to the Mainstream - Microfinance Programmes and Women's Empowerment: The Bangladesh Experience

How has microfinance contributed to empowerment?
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This study aims to examine the nature of women's empowerment through microfinance programs (MFPs), organized by Non-government Organizations (NGOs) in Bangladesh. It assumes that participation in MFPs promotes personal, social, economic and political empowerment of women. It analyzes and synthesizes the current debates and trends within the sector from a global perspective.

The paper also:

  • Analyzes the issue of empowerment as propounded by development practitioners and academicians;
  • Establishes the empowerment framework for the study and assesses mechanisms for promoting empowerment within development practices;
  • Examines women's empowerment promoted by MFPs;
  • Critically explores the nature of personal, social, economic and political empowerment promoted by MFPs operating from the minimalist and integrated approaches.

Further, the paper finds that the social processes of MFPs lead to:

  • Strengthened personal and social dimensions of women's empowerment;
  • An increased sense of self-esteem and self-worth for women;
  • Greater awareness of social and political issues;
  • Increased intra-household bargaining power and 'voice' of women in household decision-making.

Finally, the paper establishes that MFPs operating from either the minimalist or the integrated approach create empowerment-promoting conditions for women and suggests that:

  • Future research studies should explore the issue from the women's perspective;
  • MFPs need to adopt a balanced and sustainable approach for the future, balancing issues of financial sustainability with women's empowerment.

About this Publication

By Sabharwal, G.