Contributor(s)Dr Sathiya Susuman
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AbstractIt is widely accepted that women are central to household well-being and national economic development. However, the role of women is impeded because they generally hold a low status in many developing countries. Owing to historical and cultural disadvantages, women are also more vulnerable to poverty. In addition to being a human rights issue, the prevailing condition of women calls for taking measures to empower them. The empowerment of women is also the basis for transforming lives at the household level and in the wider society. In this regard, the delivery of microfinance is one of the approaches to the empowerment of women. This study has the objective of assessing the impact of microfinance in the empowerment of women. It recognizes the multidimensional nature of empowerment as a process involving personal, social, economic and political dimensions. The research was conducted at the Specialized Financial and Promotional Institution (SFPI). The researcher used both qualitative and quantitative methods to obtain a reliable data. Data were derived from a questionnaire survey of a sample of 373 women clients of the SFPI. In addition, three focus group discussions were conducted involving 18 women while in-depth interviews were carried out with another 12. The study establishes that improved access to microfinance has been able to empower women economically. Although the results vary, the study indicated that the income and saving levels of the majority of the clients have increased after the delivery of microfinance. Encouraging results have also been shown in the enhancement of the women s of self-confidence with respect to the capability to work on their own and improve their lives. On the other hand, there is no indication of an enhancement in the decision making power of women and in their political empowerment as reflected in respect for their legal rights, ownership of household assets and holding of political positions. In addition, the delivery of microfinance has failed to bring about changes in their decision making at the household level. The study recognizes the limits of the transformative capacities of microfinance and it shows that financial empowerment does not necessarily lead to a transformation in gender relationships which is a basis for the overall empowerment of women.