Microcredit and Women’s Poverty

Linked with Drucilla K. Barker – USA, with Hazel Henderson – England & USA, with George Monbiot – England, and with G. Edward Griffin – USA.

But also with Good Governance and Participatory Development, with The Politics of Money, with Other Economies are Possible! with Inequality and Redistribution, with Economic Growth and Unequal Wealth Distribution, with Complaint on Swiss Taxes, and with Articles on Scarcity and Development.

Granting this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to microcredit guru Muhammad Yunus affirms neoliberalism, by SUSAN F. FEINER AND DRUCILLA K. BARKER:

This article is from the November/December 2006 issue of Dollars & Sense magazine (Homepage) – Read the whole article on this page of Dollar & Sense. Here two excerpts:
The key to understanding why Grameen Bank founder and CEO Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize lies in the current fascination with individualistic myths of wealth and poverty. Many policy-makers believe that poverty is “simply” a problem of individual behavior.

By rejecting the notion that poverty has structural causes, they deny the need for collective responses. In fact, according to this tough-love view, broad-based civic commitments to increase employment or provide income supports only make matters worse: helping the poor is pernicious because such aid undermines the incentive for hard work. This ideology is part and parcel of neoliberalism …

… But the evidence on microcredit and women’s empowerment is ambiguous. Access to credit is not the sole determinant of women’s power and autonomy. Credit may, for example, increase women’s dual burden of market and household labor.

It may also increase conflict within the household if men, rather than women, control how loan moneys are used. Moreover, the group pressure over repayment in Grameen’s loan circles can just as easily create conflict among women as build solidarity.

Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize because his approach to banking reinforces the neoliberal view that individual behavior is the source of poverty and the neoliberal agenda of restricting state aid to the most vulnerable when and where the need for government assistance is most acute.

Progressives working in poor communities around the world disagree. They argue that poverty is structural, so the solutions to poverty must focus not on adjusting the conditions of individuals but on building structures of inclusion.

Expanding the state sector to provide the rudiments of a working social infrastructure is, therefore, a far more effective way to help women escape or avoid poverty.

Do the activities of the Grameen Bank and other micro-lenders romanticize individual struggles to escape poverty? Yes.

Do these programs help some women “pull themselves up by the bootstraps”? Yes.

Will micro-enterprises in the informal sector contribute to ending world poverty? Not a chance.

Susan F. Feiner is professor of economics and women’s studies at the University of Southern Maine. Drucilla K. Barker is professor of economics and women’s studies at Hollins University. They are co-authors of Liberating Economics: Feminist Perspectives on Families, Work, and Globalization (University of Michigan Press, 2004).

This article is from the November/December 2006 issue of Dollars & Sense, The Magazine of Economic Justice. (Read the whole of it there).

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