Gender Empowerment in Microfinance
How SHGs in India Exemplify the Institutional Potential
This paper examines how the fundamental idea behind microfinance and microcredit, that an individual’s ability to generate capital will provide the foundation to battle oppression, falters when attempting to deliver meaningful social change on the behalf of women. A brief history of modern microfinance and microcredit agencies are explored, followed by a synopsis of the institution’s relationship with women, specifically examining the efficacy of self-help groups (SHGs) in India juxtaposed with the efficacy of traditional, Grameen model microfinance institutions (MFIs). The concluding policy section recommends several ideas on how to tweak the application of microfinance and microcredit, following some tenets of notable success achieved by the SHG structure, so that it might achieve some of the promises made on the institution’s behalf. While microfinance and microcredit have gained ground where many aid efforts have not, it remains important to critically examine the facets and application of the institution before offering it as an end-all strategy of female empowerment.