#2 a debate of empowerment and disempowerment of women
Though the concept is highly disputed, we did witness women securing more opportunities to start and expand their businesses, which conceivably increases their capital as well as bargaining power in the family. Confidently, with an elevated wellbeing and status for women, the patriarchal power structure will gradually be transformed. Many told us that they used to have only two meals a day, and now they can afford three. A few managed to send their children to universities in the city. Regardless, many of the borrowers we interviewed admitted that they were borrowing on behalf of their husbands. It is clear to us that in many cases, women still play a supporting role in providing for the family, which made true empowerment seem like an aspiring goal at this point.
#3 financial literacy should be the catalyst complementing micro-finance to lift people out of poverty
During an interview in the villages, a female borrower admitted that Grameen Bank only taught her how to sign her name. She is incapable of reading the terms written on her passbook, let alone apprehend the financial concepts and knowledge of the investment tools, which are both essential to running a profitable business and budgeting personal expenses. While financial literacy is known to be beneficial to poverty elimination, many MFIs are reducing the funding on financial education as a complementary service. Without money management skills, borrowers may end up being burdened with debt, and eventually looped back into the vicious cycle of poverty.
On one hand, microfinance does give underprivileged people a means to break the cycle of poverty. On the other, operational barriers and societal structure still remain as challenges to its effectiveness. To ensure that it truly lives up to its promise of lifting people out of poverty, institutional governance and financial education are both essential complements of each other.
- A more detailed research article will be released by the end of December.
- Visit our Youtube video for a glimpse of our trip: https://youtu.be/6BWy0Qk3bIQ