Accepted paper:

Exploring the impact of a grassroots microfinance organisation on the lives of women and their daughters in rural India

Authors:

Rebecca Gordon (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

This research explores the work of a grassroots organisation which is unique in the way in which it operates and aimed to assess the impact of women's leading of self-help groups on their on education, confidence and transformative impact on their daughters' education.

Paper long abstract:

In spite of increases in girls' access to education worldwide, those in rural and socio-economically marginalised communities, such as scheduled caste girls in rural Bihar, still experience educational inequality due to intersections of poverty and gender. Interventions that seek to support families economically, aiming to mitigate these socio-economic inequalities, are of interest to policymakers. Microfinance in particular, through its focus on women, may reorganise gender relations and lead to women's empowerment. However, the debate between researchers and practitioners about the supposed impacts of microfinance continue (Duflo & Karlan, 2009; Easterly, 2010), including both a critique of its top-down 'neoliberal' agenda and a feminist criticism of approaches that rely on women and girls to solve world poverty (Chant, 2016). This research explores the work of a grassroots organisation which is unique in the way in which it operates, fostering inclusivity of members' involvement in facilitating their own self-help groups and focusing on providing loans in a supportive environment driven by the requirements of its members. This research examined the impact of membership on women's lives, through focus groups, particularly hearing their own perspectives on whether this organisation included them in their decision-making. It also aimed to assess the impact of their active inclusion in the organisation and leading of self-help groups on their own education, confidence, and subsequent transformative impact on their daughters' education. Finally, consideration is given to how women conceptualised the involvement and role of this organisation on changes taking place in their lives.

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