The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty
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The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty

Concepts, Research, Policy

Edited by Sylvia Chant

In the interests of contextualising (and nuancing) the multiple interrelations between gender and poverty, Sylvia Chant has gathered writings on diverse aspects of the subject from a range of disciplinary and professional perspectives, achieving extensive thematic as well as geographical coverage. This benchmark volume presents women’s and men’s experiences of gendered poverty with respect to a vast spectrum of intersecting issues including local to global economic transformations, family, age, ‘race’, migration, assets, paid and unpaid work, health, sexuality, human rights, and conflict and violence.
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Chapter 92: Microcredit and Women’s Empowerment: Understanding the ‘Impact Paradox’ with Particular Reference to South India

Supriya Garikipati


Supriya Garikipati Microcredit has come to occupy a central place in poverty alleviation strategies all over the developing world. It is mainly targeted at women from the poorer sections of the population. A recent estimate suggests that 84 per cent of microcredit clients worldwide are women (Daley-Harris, 2006). The rationale for lending primarily to women is that they are good credit risks, less likely to misuse loans, more likely to respond to peer-pressure and more inclined to share benefits with others in their households, especially their children. In addition to these economic benefits, it is argued that women’s increased role in the household economy will lead to their empowerment. The metaphorical trajectory that took women from the simple act of borrowing money to their emancipation was so fundamental to the early credit interventions that the possibility that this may not happen was not considered. But when the relationship between microcredit and empowerment began to be studied earnestly in the mid-1990s, it spawned an intense debate. Some of the evaluations claim an extremely positive result while others suggest that microcredit in fact leaves women worse off than before (see also Sweetman, Chapter 88, this volume). The positive evaluations argue that microcredit has helped women increase their incomes, leading to greater confidence and ability to overcome cultural asymmetries, while the negative evaluations assert that the loans made to women are usually controlled by their husbands, leading to women’s dependence on them for loan instalments and at times in a context of domestic...

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