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Empowering the frailty: dissecting the role of microcredit

Vijayamohanan, Pillai N. and Asalatha, B. P. (2011): Empowering the frailty: dissecting the role of microcredit.

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The present paper seeks to dissect the significance of micro-credit in empowering women. It starts with a brief discussion on the role of micro-credit in poverty alleviation in general, widely acclaimed in contrast to the top-down policies. The concept of empowerment is defined from different perspectives of power, feminism and personal autonomy in family framework before taking up the agency of micro-credit for analysis. Here we identify three contrasting ‘paradigms’ with different underlying aims and understandings and different policy prescriptions and priorities in relation to both micro-finance itself and to gender policy such as the feminist empowerment paradigm, the poverty alleviation paradigm and the financial self-sustainability paradigm. Though some evaluations paint a positive picture of the impact of credit programs on women's lives in that access to savings and credit can initiate or strengthen a series of interlinked and mutually reinforcing ‘virtuous spirals’ of empowerment, we take care not to ignore the practical difficulties involved. Also considered in this respect is the role of outside agencies in the empowerment process.

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