Perceptions of Empowerment: A Minor Field Study of the Concept Discrepancy between the Dominating Development Discourse and the Reality of Women in Microcredit Groups
Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
The majority of the poor people in the world today are women. Women are not only more poor men, but also more vulnerable to the effects of poverty. The positive benefits of development do not reach women in equal measures to men, and the proportion of women among the poor is constantly increasing. During the past years the ‘empowerment’ of women has become something of a universal remedy in the development discourse for the vulnerable position of the women, particularly through microcredit strategies. The exact meaning of the term ‘empowerment’ is not clear, but since the connotations are exclusively positive the word is used liberally in development policy. The aim of this paper is to investigate whether there is a discrepancy in the empowerment concept between the macro-level and the dominating development discourse on the one hand, and the micro-level and the women in the microcredit groups on the other, and what possible consequences such a discrepancy have on the lives of the women. Interviews with women in microcredit groups in Gujarat, India, show that they define the concept of empowerment more broadly than the development discourse. Other benefits than the strictly financial improvements are valued highly, as well as more types of power than simply the ‘power to’ become economically better off. The consequence of the narrow definition of empowerment in the dominating development discourse is that activities which might challenge the gendered social structures are left out of the microcredit strategies. Although the women have the possibility to take loans, they do not get enough support to increase their agency in the society, and the discriminating social structures are left at status quo.
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IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-6512OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-6512DiVA: diva2:196590