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Microcredit, Gender and Neoliberal Development in Bangladesh

Publications of the Department of Social Research 2013:2; Sociology

Uddin Mohammad Jasim

The second chapter documents if participation in microcredit providing organizations solidifies, perpetuates, and even fosters relationships (i.e. social capital) forged between women within groups or between groups in the research study sites. Microcredit programmes are based on social collateral mechanism, in which one client stands as another’s guarantor. An individual poor woman cannot take a loan from microcredit organizations simply by asking for one. As a condition of receiving credit she has to be a member of a group and come to the centre for weekly installments. The author’s interest lies in exploring whether microcredit membership and its collateral mechanisms facilitate social networks, norms of reciprocity, collective identity, action among the borrowers, and political participation of women in the rural areas. Whether the group principle works as an instrumental strategy of microcredit organizations for disciplining borrowers and recovering credit installments within due time has been invested. Analysis is made of how the social collateral mechanism, poverty, competition for limited resources and insecurity erode the web of social connectedness and fabric of social trust.

Chapter three expands the analysis to deal with the issue of how microcredit relates to dowry gifts. The logic behind dowry gifts in rural areas of Bangladesh was also studied. For example, do dowry gifts work as a vehicle of promoting social mobility and intensifying social capital?

Chapter four takes a bird’s eye view of microcredit, gender relations and practices. The proponents of microcredit providers argue that microcredit empowers women because it offers women access to their own resources, thus providing opportunities for asset accumulation and growth. The NGOs also exhibit their high levels of recovery rate as evidence that programmes serve the poor women who become not only good clients but also “rational economic actors.” Microcredit is a family economic project wherein the woman of a household is the one who applies for a loan and is accountable for repaying it as weekly installments. Considering the existing debates among the researchers, I start by discussing who decides to take credit, subsequently controls its uses and income if any is generated. I have endeavoured to trace the reasons that trigger most women to turn the credit to the males of the household instead of making investments themselves. I have explored why microcredit NGOs offer credit through women and have sought an answer to the question: Is it an initiative or a mechanism to extend the power over women’s bodies (Foucault, 1977) and thoughts?

Chapter five is a description of how women’s participation in microcredit programmes is related to their intra-household decision-making power and conflict negotiation capacities. Throughout chapter five answers are sought to the following questions: How is microcredit tied in with reproductive behaviour, fertility practices and women’s exposure to violence?

Chapter six seeks to de-mystify what happens when multiple credit organizations offer loans in the same locality simultaneously. The issues of drift and diffusion of microcredit programmes within the local settings are covered.

Chapter seven examines whether microcredit programmes ensure a “fair-deal” situation in which both the organizations and the client parties can profit. Credit, which is disbursed to promote self-employment and increase household incomes, is sanctioned through a set of social and economic laws, enforcement what is referred to as disciplinary technologies. The author describes how microcredit borrowers widely criticize the rules and procedures of microcredit programmes when they are outside the direct surveillance and gaze of the NGOs’ officials. The interrelation between structure and agency is explored by showing how some clients manipulate the rules of the NGOs for their own advantages and how some of them have emerged as informal money-lenders who divert their loans to other people at a high interest
rate. This analysis owes much to James Scott’s concept of hidden resistance (1990)
and weapons of the weak (1985).

In chapter eight, the concepts of insecurity and vulnerability, and the entitlement approach developed by Sen (1981, 1987, 1999) are described. These concepts explain why poor people take credit year after year and get locked into a vicious cycle of debt. By the same token, this present study data also provide some insights on who benefits from credit and why. Chapter nine presents a summary and conclusion of this research.

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