Accepted paper:

Local & global emergence of women's leadership in a changing world


Annapurna Pandey (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes the success of interest free nano-finance programs, emphasizing the unique and innovative methods women use to make successful business ventures, what can be learnt from the challenges women have faced in micro-credit, and how they have overcome their constraints.

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on the role of nano-financing in the lives of the poorest of the poor women in Odisha, India. Ranu Mahanty, a diasporic Odia, resident of E.Lansing, Michigan, USA, started the nano-finance project. As she explains ( this practice is quite common and, as a result, these women never managed to come out of the vicious circle of abject poverty. Using the life experiences of a dozen such women the paper sheds light on the local indigenous efforts to reach out to women who do not qualify for micro-credit and to create a sense of empowerment among women who, thereby, improve their personal situation and build up stronger social networks among themselves. The paper counters the feminist narrative that depicts poor, working class women as victims with an account of their empowerment as a tough lesson for us to model in our living, teaching and being engaged in women's issues. The analysis highlights how women who are looked upon as social outcasts and do not even qualify for micro-credit loans, take advantage of an alternative to the conventional micro-credit program, and not only manage to change their self image, but also find a new meaning in their lives by their business ventures. With the help of an interest-free loan, this collective of women has found new opportunities in their life, exploring their capabilities and developing their social networks challenging the social stigmas and taboos associated with their marginalized status.

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Local and global emergence of women's leadership in a changing world (IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Women)