Integrating Gender Policy in Microfinance: Community Development Centre (CODEC), Bangladesh

Can gender policy be integrated with microfinance without sacrificing financial sustainability?
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This paper presents the case of the Community Development Centre (CODEC), an NGO in Bangladesh, which works with the fishing communities and other very poor households. It describes the CODEC program, its gender policy and its contribution to women’s empowerment. The paper specifically provides information on CODEC’s:

  • Objectives;
  • Activities;
  • Savings and credit program;
  • Gender policy consisting of four main dimensions:
    • Targeting female in loans and reserving quotas for female leadership;
    • Integrating gender issues into mainstream training;
    • Providing special gender training;
    • Having a staff gender policy.

The paper also argues that the CODEC experience highlights the cost-effectiveness of integrating gender throughout policy and at different levels of an organization. It assesses the contribution of CODEC’s programs to empowerment on the following parameters:

  • Individual economic empowerment;
  • Intra-household relations and well-being;
  • Social and political empowerment.

Further, the paper identifies challenges for the program. These include:

  • Limited expertise of grassroots extension staff in providing in-depth training in enterprise or legal issues;
  • Need to include gender dimensions in policies that advocate increasing either financial sustainability or poverty targeting;
  • Strategic planning to combine women's empowerment with financial sustainability.

Finally, the paper identifies the broader implications for other mixed-sex, community-based organizations which aim to empower women through microfinance in an integrated development program.

About this Publication

By Mayoux, L.