a) Micro-Credit and Equality Between Women and Men
What is the relationship between women’s
empowerment and micro-credit programmes?
Micro-credit, micro-finance and micro-enterprise
are now seen as effective poverty alleviation
mechanisms, especially for poor women. The 1997
Micro-Credit Summit Campaign aims to ensure
that “100 million of the world’s poorest families,
especially the women of those families, receive
credit for self-employment and other financial and
business services by the year 2005.”
Many micro-credit schemes specifically target
women as they have proven to be very good credit
risks with high repayment ratios even with credit at
Proponents argue that as well as increasing
women’s income, there are other benefits:
Improvements in women’s role in the household
(i.e. through the provision of economic resources,
a woman may gain a greater voice in expenditure
Increased confidence for women gained not only
through the economic success of their business
but also through increased access to community
services and collective action with other women.
perceptions of women’s roles.
Yet there is now evidence that questions an
automatic relationship between participation in a
micro-credit (or micro-enterprise) scheme and
empowerment. Specific issues include:
Concerns have been raised that given women’s
unequal position within the family, women’s
loans may be ultimately controlled by male
Despite increases in income, many participants
report an increased overall workload, as there is
no respite from their domestic responsibilities.
Many aspects of gender inequality cannot be
dealt with through micro-credit. These include
unequal division of domestic responsibilities, and
Self-employment may not be women’s (or
men’s) first choice. A job in the formal sector
(with more security, benefits and protection) may
be the preferred option.