Title: Do microfinance schemes shape gender relations in developing countries? Insights from a critical review of the literature

Authors: Thomas Yeboah; Emmanuel Kumi; Albert A. Arhin

Addresses: College of Distance Education, University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast, Ghana ' Centre for Development Studies, University of Bath, UK ' Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Abstract: Micro-finance programs targeting women have become the central means of donor poverty alleviation strategies. In view of the renewed focus on post-millennium development goals (MDGs) poverty reduction strategies, there is the likelihood that donor agencies might increase funding in the next coming decades to support different initiatives. In this paper, we critically review the evidence of the nexus of microfinance and gender inequality in developing societies. One aim for providing and reaching out to women with credit methodologies is to increase womens bargaining power and challenging existing gender subordination thereby releasing them from power structures which dominate their lives. This paper suggests that relying on microfinance alone, as a strategy in addressing gender inequality in developing societies is insufficient. Drawing on several empirical cases on the microfinance literature from numerous contexts, we show that the empowerment potentials of microfinance schemes in addressing gender inequality are not straightforward. Failure to incorporate other household members (men) and a lack of recognition of the socio-cultural elements in societies constrains the empowerment potentials of microfinance programs. We conclude by suggesting pathways for improving the design and implementation of microfinance schemes in relation to addressing gender inequality in post-2015 development era.

Keywords: microfinance; female empowerment; developing societies; men; women; gender relations; developing countries; literature review; gender inequality.

DOI: 10.1504/IJGSDS.2015.074119

International Journal of Gender Studies in Developing Societies, 2015 Vol.1 No.2, pp.135 - 156

Available online: 11 Jan 2016 *

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