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Does Microcredit Empower Women or Is It a New Form of Discipline? The Case of Microcredit Self-Help Groups in India


  • Isabelle Guérin
  • Santosh Kumar


Does microcredit empower women, or does it just discipline and control them in a new way? This paper draws on the case of self-help groups (SHG) in rural India to shed light on microcredit’s various contradictory effects. By adopting the rules of patronage, SHGs renew the domination of women while giving them the opportunity to participate more fully in local networks of power and influence. This raises the question of what ‘empowerment’ can mean in an environment where social relationships – and the dependency they imply – are instrumental to accessing resources. It also highlights the ambiguity of ‘empowering’ development projects, which both have to adopt the established order in order to establish legitimacy, and at the same time contest it.

Suggested Citation

  • Isabelle Guérin & Santosh Kumar, 2014. "Does Microcredit Empower Women or Is It a New Form of Discipline? The Case of Microcredit Self-Help Groups in India," Working Papers 34, Institute of Microfinance (InM).
  • Handle: RePEc:imb:wpaper:34

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