Microcredit and Women’s Empowerment

Event start date
Event start time

Pinni A building, Paavo Koli auditorium, address: Kanslerinrinne 1.


Doctoral defence of M.Sc. Nasrin Jahan Jinia

Microcredit and Women’s Empowerment. Does Microcredit Promote the Borrowers to Participate in the Household Decision-making Process in Bangladesh?

The field of science of the dissertation is Administrative Science.

The opponent is professor Nazmunnessa Mahtab (University of Dhaka, Bangladesh). Professor emeritus Juha Vartola acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is English.

Microcredit and Women’s Empowerment

Women’s empowerment has become a global phenomenon in the contemporary discourse of development. Inclusive governance, sustainable development, poverty alleviation and reduction of gender discrimination are not possible in any country unless and until women are included and associated with mainstream development. Women’s participation in their household’s decision-making process is a cornerstone of their empowerment. In recent decades, micro-credit has gained enormous importance as one of the key tools of women’s empowerment in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, microcredit operations now provide support mostly to the poor and to women involved in informal activities mostly household related. Microcredit programs also offer skill-based training to supplement efficiency, organizational support, and awareness-raising to empower the disadvantaged women.

Although, the literature on microcredit highlights its potential to empower women in Bangladesh, there are also contradictory findings and controversial successes and failures. Therefore, this study investigates the relationship between microcredit and women’s empowerment i.e. how participation in microcredit programs effect borrowers’ abilities to participate in their household’s decision-making process. Specifically, this study asks: does microcredit promote borrowers’ participation in their household’s decision-making process, especially in the areas of education, health, savings, and marriage?

Multiple research methods were used during the different phases of this study. However, primarily this dissertation employed qualitative methods. This is an empirical study, and first hand data and a comprehensive empirical study were needed to answer the central research question of this study. Therefore, various methods and techniques of qualitative research have been used to collect first hand data from Bangladesh such as content analysis, thematic interviews, formal and informal discussion, participant observations, interviews, participatory rural appraisal and formal questionnaire methods. In addition, a sizable data has been collected from the secondary sources.

The theoretical framework of key concepts, such as women’s empowerment, microcredit, household decision-making, and participation are presented in a very comprehensive manner. In order to better understand and justify the key concepts, a large amount of literature was reviewed, interpreted, reinterpreted and presented from a broad perspective. The relationship between microcredit and women’s empowerment in general and the abilities of microcredit borrowers’ to participate in their household decision-making process in particular have been presented with empirical references.

Despite many attempts during the last few decades, grassroots evidences demonstrated that a number of challenges still inhibit the process of women’s empowerment in Bangladesh. They are: lack of proper education, poverty and weak economic conditions, traditional social norms and values, misinterpretations of religious norms and values, a lack of social awareness, early marriage, a lack of social security, and a lack of proper law enforcement. Empirical findings also confirm that microcredit partly helps women to overcome these challenges and empower them.  

The findings of this study show that microcredit has a positive impact on women’s empowerment and promotes microcredit borrowers to participate in the household decision-making process. The impacts of microcredit on women’s empowerment, which were demonstrated at the grassroots level, could be summarized as: microcredit created opportunities for poor women to access capital; it has created self-employment opportunities for poor women who lack assets; microcredit has shown people how to respect the poor women in the society, and; microcredit has enabled millions of poor women to escape from slavery. Evidence reveals that microcredit empowers women by putting capital in their hands and by helping them to earn own income, which allows them to financially contribute to their families and communities. Economic empowerment increases their self-esteem, respect, and other forms of empowerment for women. Microcredit allows ultra-poor women to shift from non-participatory roles to participatory roles in their families. Microcredit empowers women in domains including: more rights, improved self-esteem, increase political power and thus increased participation in household decision making. As a result, microcredit promotes the borrowers to participate in the household decision-making process and meaningfully adds to the process of women’s empowerment in Bangladesh.

However, in order to promote and continue this process, several issues should be taken into account. These were identified as the limitations of microcredit on women’s empowerment. They include high-interest rates, ignoring of the very poor, causing some instances of domestic violence, an unhealthy level of competition among the microcredit institutions, the misuse and mismanagement of credit by borrowers, and a lack of training and education for borrowers.

Unquestionably, women’s empowerment is a collective process and it can never be achieved by pushing a single strategy, such as NGO’s microcredit programs. Microcredit is not a panacea and the only way to empower women, but it is one of the leading factors of women’s empowerment introduced by the NGOs. The benefits of microcredit and its sustainability depend on other factors for example social, cultural and political factors. These factors should be addressed simultaneously in order to promote the process of women’s empowerment.

Women’s empowerment is a multidimensional and contextual idea that requires an integrated approach to development. Without an integrated approach to all state and international aid agencies, women’s empowerment will never get proper attention. Furthermore, the benefits of microcredit will never become sustainable and will never bring about viable, long-term changes for borrowers. Undeniably, microcredit has had a positive impact on the lives of millions of ultra-poor women in Bangladesh. Therefore, future research could explore how to build an integrated holistic approach to women’s empowerment in Bangladesh.

The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2207, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2016. ISBN 978-952-03-0220-7, ISSN 1455-1616. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1707, Tampere University Press 2016. ISBN 978-952-03-0221-4, ISSN 1456-954X.

The dissertation can be ordered at: Juvenes e-bookstore or by e-mail: verkkokauppa@juvenesprint.fi.

Additional information

Nasrin Jahan Jinia, Tel. +358 50 438 4436, nasrin.jinia@uta.fi