Conflicts Over Credit: Re-Evaluating the Empowerment Potential of Loans to Women in Rural Bangladesh
Publication Date: Jan 2000
Microcredit programmes for the poor have come to occupy a central place in poverty-oriented strategies in Bangladesh. Yet evaluations of the empowerment potential of credit programmes for rural women in Bangladesh have arrived at conflicting conclusions. This paper draws on the findings of a credit programme in Bangladesh, in which the impact of loans was evaluated by women loanees themselves. The paper argues that while the recent questioning of the empowerment potential of loans to women helps to counter the earlier preoccupation with ?repayment rates?, the recommendations arising from the more negative evaluations of loans carry the danger of overloading microfinance organisations with empowerment-related goals. This can seriously undermine their ability to deliver effective and sustainable financial services. It should be recognised that there are multiple rationales for lending to women, apart from empowerment. The fact that women are more likely to share their loans with male household members than men are with women merely strengthens the argument for lending to women, as the entire family is more likely to benefit economically, and women are more likely to benefit personally and socially.