6. Gender empowerment in microﬁnance Beatriz Armendáriz1 and Nigel Roome INTRODUCTION Ever since microﬁnance was popularized in the mid-1970s in Bangladesh, one of its salient features has been the overwhelming representation of women. The trend has increased steadily, particularly during the 1980s. According to 2006 Microcredit Summit Campaign report, seven out of ten microﬁnance clients are women.2 Millions of these women are married or live with a partner, and many have children. Relative to initial lending practices by the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, the bias in favor of loans to women in microﬁnance has been accompanied by an increasing trend to exclude men from microﬁnance services, particularly at very low income levels. The practice of exclusion might however prove to be counterproductive, for it can generate frictions within households, as men feel increasingly threatened in their role as primary breadwinners within the household.3 In this chapter we argue that the promotion of women in microﬁnance initiatives and the bias against men is taking place in the absence of solid empirical evidence on the eﬀects of this strategy, and on the balance of power in households and on the health, education, and well-being of all household members, which we hold to be key aspects of development. We further argue that this issue deserves research given the possibility of unforeseen outcomes and adverse consequences that run counter to the goal of microﬁnance initiatives to promote development. To clarify the central issues, on the...
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