Accepted paper:

Gendering men around a women-focused micro-finance program in Kerala, South India


Lars Aaberg (SOAS University of London)

Paper short abstract:

The status of women as gendered subjects within families has garnered attention from the fields of anthropology and development researchers. This paper will provide a gender-focused analysis of a micro-finance program geared toward women with the expressed purpose of empowering them in Kerala, South India.

Paper long abstract:

Gender and Development (GAD) theory and practice has sought to complicate assumptions of individual agency within families to recognize that relations of power within families are heavily gendered. Not all members in a given family have similar agency in laying claim to limited resources. The result is that families and family structure have increasingly become sites of intervention in development. Women are often the targets of development programs in attempts to elevate their position in their kinship networks. This is particularly the case with regard to micro-finance programs within development which now largely focus on women. At present gender research in development is still largely focused on women. In order to better understand gender within a family, I argue for the need to examine men and masculinities as gendered subjects themselves. This paper will take the state-sponsored micro-finance program Kudumbashree as a case-study around which to discuss gender and power relations within Malayali families with a focus on men and masculinities. Kudumbashree promises to empower women through its financial services, namely providing small low-interest loans to women from impoverished families. Utilizing ethnographic data gathered from an urban slum in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala over the course of 9-months, I analyze how men and masculinities are constructed within kinship networks in a setting where Kudumbashree is actively engaging in interventions to elevate the status of women. I discuss what significance the program holds for men and how they interpret the program’s expressed intent to empower women.

panel P23
Changing family realities in South Asia