Mircofinance has of late become an indispensible part of India’s economy as the financial needs of India’s rural poor reflect the volatile, uncertain, and irrelgular income streams and expenditure patterns of these households. Critical examination of their prerequisites shows that poor people value financial services and want these to be reliable, convenient, continuous and flexible. The poor need not an assortment of financial options like loans that cover their short-term needs to those for investment purposes and long-term savings. India boasts of a range of institutions providing microfinance which consists of formal financial institutions at one end of the spectrum and private moneylenders at the other. In middle of the band lies semi-formal microfinance providers. Notable formal sector microfinance providers in India are SIDBI (Small Industries Development Bank in India), ICICI Bank, SBI Bank, etc. Despite the numerous efforts made by the government and other establishments, the informal sector- consisting of landlords, local shopkeepers, traders and professional moneylenders who provide microfinance to the poor at extremely high rates of interest- continue to rule the roost in this industry. A study conducted by RFAS in 2003 reported that 44% of the rural households still borrow money from informal agents.
On the other hand, gender-based inequality has been largely predominant in the Indian subcontinent without much debate. Although women have constitued a pivotal part of the total labor force in India, the race has been besieged with bias and discrimination for several centuries. An overwhelming portion of the total workforce in rural India is self-employed, i.e. those who earn their living through small businesses or through their own labour. Women in the workforce are generally home-based workers such as garment makers, weavers, craft people and food processors, vendors, manual labour and service providers such as agriculture laborers, construction workers, ragpickers, domestic workers and cart-pullers. Women in this section are embroiled in a vicious circle of indebtedness, poverty, low incomes and limited government assistance. SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) is the first Self-Help Group (SHG) formed by these women in 1972 with an aim to strengthen its members’ bargaining power to improve their income, employment and access to social society.
Careful considerations of the past and previling situation in India makes it indispensable for one to explore the relations between gender-based inequality and micro-finance. Numerous studies have been conducted in the past on gender-based inequality and women empowerment in microfinance. This study supplements the exisiting body of knowledge on women empowerment through microfinance in India through financial institutions, particularly Grameen Bank.
The mainsteaming of gender in development planning is critical in determining the extent to which men and women could participate in, and obtain benefit from developmental interventions. Women have long been neglected in their role as beneficial in the process of development. The empowerment of women is one of the central issues in the process of development of countries all over the world. In India it is estimated that there are 92 million working women though 90% of them work in thr organised sector. Empowerment of women can serve as one of the key inputs in nation’s development.
- Murdoch and Rutherford (2003), as cited in Basu (2006).
- As demonstrated in Basu (2006).
- Jayshree Vyas in Karmarkar (2008).
- See Mayoux (2006); Mohanty (1995); Elliott (2008); Chakrabothy (2006); Karmarkar (2006); Ahmad (2009). Rais Ahmad conducted a vast study spanning into several years and 3 parts.
- In a study conducted by Kaur and Gandhi (2006), they explore the issue of women empowerment in Jalandhar, Punjab.