Concepts, Research, Policy
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Edited by Sylvia Chant
Chapter 57: Renegotiating the Household: Successfully Leveraging Women’s Access to Housing Microfinance in South Africa
Sophie Mills Based on research carried out with men and women in male and female-headed households in two townships of Cape Town, South Africa,1 this chapter explores how effective housing microfinance can be in empowering women to negotiate improved bargaining positions within their households. It begins by exploring the impact at the household level of improved housing due to credit provision and the link which many women and men make between women’s access to a housing microloan and wider benefits around women’s improved decision-making ability. Subsequently, the potential for intrahousehold conflict is discussed, as women’s expectation of greater entitlements as a consequence of their contribution can be blocked or undermined by men seeking to subsume their achievements in order to preserve existing household power relations. The detrimental impact on women’s household position of detaching reward from investment exemplifies the caution with which such interventions should be viewed and suggests future policy should be cautious in correlating women’s increased input with increased opportunity. Housing microfinance: a positive intervention for women in households? Housing has been a key policy area for the South African government, which implemented a housing subsidy programme in 1996 in order to address the spatial inequalities of the apartheid era. The subsidy was targeted at low-income households, financing a complete unit for those earning below ZAR3500 (US$369). A critical component of the original housing strategy was the participation of the country’s formal banking sector in lending to this market. However, despite voluntary commitments by the financial...
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