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Assessing Microcredit in Bangladesh: A Critique of the Concept of Empowerment


  • Nahid Aslanbeigui
  • Guy Oakes
  • Nancy Uddin


Assessing microcredit programs by testing their contribution to the empowerment of borrowers has been widely advocated and explored in the literature on women and development. There is considerable debate on whether microcredit empowers or disempowers women, and there are attempts to reconcile conflicting conclusions based on heterogeneous samples or data sets and grounded in a variety of methodologies. Although there is little agreement on the relation between microcredit and empowerment and no consensus on the meaning of the idea of empowerment itself, students of gender and development seem to be at one in regarding empowerment as a logically unproblematic concept. We argue that the idea of empowerment employed in this literature is vulnerable to a number of logical criticisms and cannot serve as a sound basis for determining the value of microcredit to borrowers. Our research suggests that in assessing the impact of microcredit, it is essential to consider generational and inter-generational differences it makes in the lives of borrowers and their families. Results of ethnographic work conducted in January 2008 on long-term borrowers of the Grameen Bank inform the exposition of the arguments.

Suggested Citation

  • Nahid Aslanbeigui & Guy Oakes & Nancy Uddin, 2010. "Assessing Microcredit in Bangladesh: A Critique of the Concept of Empowerment," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(2), pages 181-204.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:22:y:2010:i:2:p:181-204
    DOI: 10.1080/09538251003665446

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ranjula Bali Swain & Fan Yang Wallentin, 2009. "Does microfinance empower women? Evidence from self-help groups in India," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(5), pages 541-556.
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