Supporting Women's Livelihoods: Microfinance that Works for the Majority - A Guide to Best Practices

Can microfinance improve the livelihoods of poor women?
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This technical reference guide presents the experiences of practitioners and donors working to expand the frontier of appropriate services to female clients, with the aim of improving the livelihoods of the world's poor women. It also:

  • Aims to show that many organizations are simultaneously making progress towards gender-sensitive service delivery and spurring the larger society of financial services to re-examine traditional ideas about access to services, decision-making within the household, ownership of assets, and the value of women's work;
  • Recognizes that microfinance can play an important role in financing women's income-earning activities.

The paper discusses:

  • The rationale for taking gender considerations into account in microfinance programs;
  • Women's productive role and how microfinance can support it;
  • The ways in which microfinance can enhance women's effectiveness as household risk managers;
  • Methods that have proven successful in enabling MFIs to reach women clients;
  • Best practices in outreach and service delivery;
  • Non-financial services that complement the benefits of microfinance lending;
  • The role donors can play in supporting expansion, innovation and research in this field.

The paper concludes that:

  • Women's access to microfinance can produce certain benefits; the challenge is to leverage the impact of microfinance activities beyond the financial sphere;
  • Supportive donors can enable practitioners to push past limits of experimentation in terms of types of services offered to women clients.

About this Publication

By Burjorjee, D., Deshpande, R. , Weidemann, J.