A New Gender Agenda for Microfinance?

Are women more empowered?
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This article deals with the impact of microfinance on women's empowerment. It states that few studies have revealed some of the negative impacts:

  • Increased workloads for women;
  • The withdrawal of male contributions to household expenditures;
  • Domestic violence and abuse.

The article raises the following concerns:

  • Is targeting women simply an efficient way to development?
  • Is such targeting fully justified on the grounds of enhancing gender equity?

The article suggests some of the methods for the road ahead:

  • A gender approach in program design is needed;
  • There must be an emphasis on enabling MFIs to understand the complexity of gender relations;
  • It is necessary to engage with MFIs in a debate and language that they understand;
  • There is need for developing gender-sensitive products and services;
  • Market research techniques involving in-depth discussions with clients are useful for emphasizing gendered needs.

Finally the article concludes that:

  • It is necessary for MFIs to address gender issues;
  • Failure to address issues affects MFIs' prospects for retaining and growing with their clients and developing a range of products to appeal to them;
  • One means to advance the work is to develop and disseminate market research techniques exploring the gender dimensions of income, expenditure, saving, investment and business growth;
  • Dissemination would involve training to ask the right questions and understand the gender implications of the answers.

About this Publication

By Johnson, S.