Women's Empowerment and Participation in Microfinance: Evidence, Issues and Ways Ahead

How can women's empowerment be more successfully integrated into microfinance programmes?

This article critically examines the paradigms and assumptions underlying current thinking on microfinance and empowerment, reviews the current evidence of the empowering effects of microfinance, and outlines alternative models for 'best practice'. It finds that while many microfinance programmes have empowering effects, these outcomes are not necessarily automatic. The author argues that ensuring women benefit from microfinance will rely upon:

  • Mainstreaming of empowerment into programme aims and strategies;
  • Use of participatory strategies to enable fundamental changes in gender relations. The author recommends that alternative models of best practice should include:
    • Gender mainstreaming of banks, financial institutions and regulatory bodies;
    • Integrated programmes for empowerment, in which microfinance is one of a number of interventions, including for example, literacy, health and labour union programmes;
    • Interorganisational collaboration, in which microfinance programmes link with other complimentary groups to pool resources, share information and increase the impact of lobbying.

About this Publication

By Mayoux, L.