Modern microcredit, as a tool for economic and social development, emerged with the assumption that it would promote women’s empowerment. Some researchers have found that microcredit has had a significant amount of success. However, some of these supportive studies have also ignored the subjective history of the participants. A second critical view of microcredit presents the practice as a Western World notion which exploits women as a tool of the market economy in order to gain profit, arguing that it has failed to provide an alternative to women’s vulnerability and survival. This article focuses on the drawbacks of both approaches. This research is based on sampling and in-depth interviews conducted by the author, using a semi-structured questionnaire. This methodological choice allowed the author to adopt a subjective view within the studied phenomenon, and to understand the social world associated with that phenomenon. The aim of this methodological choice was to apply an on-going awareness and assessment on the process and findings of the research. Furthermore, the methodological choices allowed the participants to express their own definitions of dignity and empowerment in their lives, and the way they have negotiated their personal lives between perceived meanings, and the assumptive meanings of empowerment through the microcredit programs they utilized. The results demonstrated that family life coupled with financial progress was the first and foremost meaning of dignity for all the participants. Additional definitions for dignity in life also emerged. After experiencing the microcredit program handled by the Grameen Bank, the results of a positive experience using microcredit increased their feelings of dignity as they had defined it. The remaining participants experienced microcredit with feelings of risk, stress, shame, marginalization, vulnerability, and other challenges. Recommendations advocate for skill-based interventions and/or the creation of alternative ways to promote participants notions of dignity and empowerment.
Lipi, Rahima K.
Dignity and Empowerment: An Exploration of the Microcredit Experiences of Women in Rural Bangladesh.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 18(1), 230-259.
Available at: http://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol18/iss1/15