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Microfinance and Women's Empowerment: Do Relationships Between Women Matter? Lessons from rural Southern India

Isabelle Guérin, Santosh Kumar and Isabelle Agier

No 10-053, Working Papers CEB from ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles

Abstract: In the microfinance industry the idea of “empowerment” is often valued as a means to encourage female emancipation from male domination. This paper’s main purpose is to draw on women’s testimonies and narratives to highlight the fundamental importance within these processes of women’s relationships with one another, both in terms of female subjectivity and agency. Women constantly position themselves between their kin and their neighbourhood in a context where dependence upon men is considered as natural. Microcredit uses are shaped by and constitutive of the relationships between women, including power relationships. Our findings suggest revising the usual opposition between power as domination (power over) and power as agency (power to). In many cases, women’s agency requires or implies their domination over other women.

Keywords: Microfinance; Gender; Empowerment; Power; Domination; Agency; India (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D14 D74 G21 J16 L31 O16 O53 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 19 p.
Date: 2010-11
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