Report of the Workshop Social Mobilization, Credit and Women's Empowerment

Integrating social empowerment with microfinance programs
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UNDP and ICICI (Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India) organized a workshop to understand if social mobilization and micro credit programs can lead to women's empowerment. In this workshop, different MFIs presented their findings on the issues of poverty and women's empowerment.

The group made a number of observations which highlighted:

  • Empowerment is more of a transformation process through which the poor and the oppressed groups understand the nature of their oppression;
  • Women's access to and control over money is central to their empowerment;
  • Microfinance should be combined with empowerment issues such as land rights of poor women, higher and equal wages and non-farm rural livelihoods;
  • Class homogeneity, rather than caste homogeneity, amongst women members is central to effective social mobilization. Microfinance should come in later and only if it is felt to be a critical need;
  • Most MFIs are oriented to single activity lending while poorer individuals resort to a number of livelihoods;
  • MFIs need to integrate effective strategies for social risk management;
  • MFIs need to adopt effective indicators of poverty reduction for monitoring and evaluation;
  • Micro credit approaches normally reflect an incremental view of poverty reduction and empowerment, and not transformative;
  • Most 'micro' credit programs (entailing small loans) are targeted at women while 'macro' credit programs (entailing large loans) are targeted at men;
  • MFIs should provide its members with a minimum access to credit of Rs.15,000, instead of small credits.

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