Economic empowerment of women and role of ngos in bangladesh

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Economic Empowerment of Women and Role of NGOs in Bangladesh

CHAPTER-1 INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background The rise of NGOs has become one of the crucial phenomena in the sector of women empowerment in Bangladesh. Nowadays, women issues have got remarkable attention from different organizations. Different studies show that in most of the developing countries, women are always deprived from the society and are given subordinate roles. Looking at the present scenario, different governmental and non-governmental organizations are established with an aim to raise women from their poor financial conditions. Among different means of empowerment, micro credit is playing vital role and being popular among poor rural women. In rural societies of Bangladesh, women are usually not permitted to interact with men other than their direct close family members and as a result, they have only limited access to development personnel (Parveen & Ingrid, 2004). In this regard, gender discrimination is found as an immense factor for women empowerment. Most of the women from third world countries are facing such kind of discrimination either in the name of religion or social structure. In Bangladesh, women constitute about half of the total population of which 80 percent live in rural areas (BBS, 2001: 21). It is a well established fact that in a patriarchal society like Bangladesh, women are ascribed a lower status as men who have the sovereign power to control households and society as a whole, while women are often secluded in their homes (Balk, 1997:4). In


this regard, the establishment of NGOs and their effort is mentionable for the development of women's status in education, health, economic and other essential sectors. In comparison with worldwide scenario the status of Bangladeshi women has been ranked the lowest in the world on the basis of twenty indicators related to health, marriage, children, education, employment and social equality (NCBP, 2000: 27). The impact of micro credit on empowering women's economic condition is the main schema to talk about in this study. The focus is given to discover the real scenario in view of positive and negative impacts of micro-credit provided by NGOs in Bangladeshi rural villages and the economic status of women. On the other hand the study tries to reveal the condition of working women through photo documentation. Photo method has become an easy and effective way to make people understand and visualize the situation in their own perspectives. In the book "The Photograph" Mary Price argue that the meaning of the photographic image is primarily determined through associated verbal description and through the context in which the photograph is used. "(Wells, 1997:25). In this project, photos are representing the women's status in the rural villages. Hall (1980) contends that content is structured in a way that produces a preferred reading or the meaning the producers of the text intend the receiver to accept (quoted in Gunter: 2000: 85). He states that semiotic analysis of content can assess the encoded messages of the producers, which represents the latent ideological assumptions of the content. McQuail (2005) explains that visual images are inevitably ambiguous and polysemic, but they also have certain over words. "Represent means in American pop culture is to carry the name of a certain area or group" (Pineforge, 2011). A group of people can represent the particular culture or tradition by their special attribution. For example in some occasions, some people are wearing same dress which represents their identity. Likewise in this study photos try to present the condition of poor rural women and their involvement in income generating activities. Semiotics is also the popular method to analyze the photos. Which can be defined as (Branston, 2003) the study of signs or of the social production of meaning by signs sign systems, of how things come to have significance." Meaning is associated with the environment and most of the time it is contextual. So,


same picture may not be denoted same way by all. People perceive meaning depending on the context where picture is used and varies with different cultural background of the viewer. As I mentioned previously that the photos play the vital role in this study, it is essential to talk about its contribution here. Photos represent the rural Bangladeshi women's condition and try to signify their economic status. This study is specially conducted in the rural villages of Bangladesh where poverty exists the extreme. Though the project is a photo story, the following write up tries to give the theoretical and methodological underpinning to it. 1.2. Project Questions Throughout this study, the focus was given to find out the answers to the following questions. 

What is the role of NGOs in empowering women with their economic status?

Are women really empowered through micro-credit programs provided by NGOs?

1.3. Project Objectives: As objectives lead the study in a proper way, it should be clear at the beginning of any study. The main objectives to conduct this study are listed below: •

To investigate whether women are empowered through the programs launched by NGOs. It specially deals with the economic empowerment,

To reflect the real condition of rural women who are involved in small business with the help of micro-credit and to find out its effectiveness on them, and

To provide theoretical and methodological understanding about the economic empowerment of women.

1.4. Production Process The study is conducted using a photo story method on women's economic empowerment through NGO micro-credit loans. The layout of the photo story is printed pictures with captions and short


stories. Photographs and story both are press print on color/glossy paper. It is divided into two parts i.e. pre-production and post production. 1.4.1. Pre Production: This section includes taking photographs, data collection and observation of the selected places. It is the pre stage of the production. So, raw data was collected for the study. 1.4.2. Post Production This part of the production contains editing pictures, writing stories depending on the collected data. Writing Caption, designing, finally making a photo story combining photo and story altogether is the final part of the production. As the project demands both practical and theoretical understanding, this paper tries to fulfill the latter requirement. 1.5. Dispositions Chapter One- Introduction The first chapter includes background of the study, research question, objectives of the study and the production procedures. In the background part some information about women empowerment and micro credit and the importance of photo method is presented. Impacts of micro credit in Bangladeshi context are discussed which especially deals with economic empowerment of women. Chapter Two - Review of Literature Second chapter is review of literature which tries to give the clear ideas about previous studies on this very topic. Women empowerment through micro-credit is highlighted in the entire study. It also deals with the micro-credit and gender relation. Some examples are presented to reflect the impact of micro-credit lending organizations. Previous studies on women empowerment are presented in an analytical way. Chapter Three - Research Methodology Third chapter deals with the methodology. Here, I have presented the way of data collection, sampling and rationale for sampling, questionnaires design and the reasons behind choosing the rural villages of Bangladesh. And I have also talked about the photo method with some theoretical understanding and tried to shed light on its importance in this study.


Chapter Four - Data Presentation and Analysis This chapter covers analyzing and presenting the data. Collected data are presented in an analytical form with reference to the respondent's experiences. Furthermore, it also presents the findings in an analytical way. Chapter Six - Discussion and Conclusion At the end, discussion and conclusion is presented taking into consideration of the whole study. In fact the findings and discussion chapter gives the whole study at a glance with further suggestions and recommendations. CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE The literature has been reviewed in this research in terms of several concepts relevant to this project. Numerous studies have been made under women empowerment and impacts of micro-credit. Here, I am trying to review some of the relevant studies by previous researchers which provide the condition of women in terms of their economic and social status. 2.1. Women Empowerment Agenda Women empowerment agenda has become a buzz word among women activists and development practitioners. In recent days, women themselves are being aware about their rights and responsibilities which is the result of their active participation in different development activities. "Women's participation in the workforce of advanced capitalist societies had been increasing since the early years of the 20th century. This increase was largely due to the increasing numbers of married women involved in paid employment". (Charles, 2000:7$. Charles (2000) states that the feminization of poverty also refers to the fact that many women ' would be poor if they had to support themselves. "He emphasizes on women's less access on resources which is legitimated by an ideology of dependency". In another study (Banui, et at, 2011), defined women


empowerment is to have control over asset and resources which empowers women as it gives power to make decision about the use and management of those specific assets and resources. It also plays an important role in determining a person's bargaining power within the household and in the wider community as well. Empowerment actually means to have access of resources, to have own ability to decision making, to get opportunity of being educated, live healthy life, etc. In recent days, women empowerment agenda has got remarkable attention from different animations. Empowering women through micro-credit is the most recent phenomena by the different governmental and non-governmental organizations. In Bangladesh, many micro-credit lending organizations claim that they are established with the aim of empowering women's economic condition by providing minimal amount of money. In 1976, Mahmmud Yunus started giving loan to the poor by establishing a bank named "Grameen bank". This bank got lots of popularity among the poor as it started hear their problems. "Micro-credit allows families to work to end their own poverty with dignity. Micro-credit programs around the world, using a variety of models, have shown that poor people achieve strong repayment records - often higher than those of conventional borrowers."(Microcredit summit, 2011). Below, the literature is trying to reflect the connection between micro-credit and women empowerment. 2.2. Economic empowerment of women through micro credit Nowadays, all over the world NGOs' popularity is getting into its peak. As NGOs are working in different sector of development, women's development is also not far from its stroke. Talking about economic empowerment of women, emerging number of NGOs who are providing micro credit especially for women are mentionable in this section. Hoque & Itohara (2009) studied about the "women empowerment through participation in micro credit programme". Their area of study was Gaibandha District (Northern part of Bangladesh) and micro credit beneficiaries were interviewed. Their result shows that among the interviewed women, 22% of the respondents are empowered and 61% are active respondents of micro credit. But this study also says that micro credit program is to some extent contributing in women empowerment in rural


Bangladesh. Though most of women are poor, who are involved in micro credit programs actively are able to enhance their economic condition. Their status of empowerment is relatively better than Ae individual housewives. Thus, this study concludes that micro-credit has positive pact on women in terms of raising their economic condition. Kasia (2008) studied about the impact of micro credit with the title "Limits of credit- A Bangladesh Case". Their observation was the danger of taking micro as a "Silver Bullet" for development and the limits of employing purely market-led development approaches as strategic for poverty alleviation. Micro credit claims that is it ig people to empower themselves by engaging different income generative activities. Some of the advocates of micro-credit say that micro-credit helps to break down the poverty and reduce depending charity and other forms of dependency." (Jaison & Kasia, 2008). They found that micro credit is helping women to be independent with their individual business. Micro-credit is helping in enhancing women's decision making power and providing opportunities to engage in income generating activities. Khan and Rahman (2007) studied on "Impact of Microfinance on Living Standards, Empowerment and Poverty Alleviation of Poor People" with the aim of finding the impact of micro-finance and poverty alleviation in rural Bangladesh. Their area of study was Chittagong district of Bangladesh where they interviewed the people who were involved with the micro credit lending organizations. Depending on the data, they found that micro credit has not only helped poor to come over from the poverty line but also helped to empower themselves. Their study says that micro finance institutions are contributing not only in alleviating poverty and improving the living standards of the poor but also in offering extensive human development programs in Bangladesh. Zeeler et al, 2000 (quoted in Mosely & Hulme's; 1998) revealed that for each of the intermediaries, the impact of lending on the recipient household's income increases with the debtor's income and asset position improved. Nycander's (2004) study on the "Empowerment of women through micro-credit" revealed that only providing micro-credit is not the solution of alleviating poverty. Until the women are far from the access of resources, the small amount of money cannot bring radical changes in their life. More job opportunities and chances for the women are crucial to empower them. With the loan, many types of


skill development training should be provided hand to hand so that women will be able to use their skills in proper way. 2.3. Micro Credit and Gender More than 65 million poor people have accessed on micro-credit schemes and about three quarters of them are women. Studies in Bangladesh have found that apart from economic impact, access to micro credit has had substantial impact on gender equality." (Nycander. 2004) Gender is the most discussed topic all over the world and it has got remarkable attention from the development practitioners and women activists. Hashemi, Sechler & Riley (1996) found that Grameen Bank and BRAC in Bangladesh had a positive effect on numerous other aspects of life of women besides their economic and social empowerment. Osmani 1998 (quoted in Zeller, et al, 2008) also observed improvement in the bargaining power of women in the family because of their access to credit. Jaison & Kasia (2008) found that micro credit and gender has very close relation. But their observation brought tbe negative impact of micro-credit in the name of empowering women. They revealed That micro credit has been used in improper way. Micro-credit lending organization are attributing loan for women and men are benefited in many ways. "Women take micro-credit as their husbands order them to do so. When their husbands fail to pay the installment, then NGO workers abuse the women a lot. Women have to bear the pressure coming from both sides" (Jaison, et al, 2008). World economic forum writes in its report, "The economic participation of women, their presence in the workforce in quantitative term is important not only for lowering the proportionate levels of poverty among women, but also as an important step toward casing household income and encouraging economic development in countries as a whole" (we forum, 2011). Looking into the present scenario micro credit has become an easy alternate among poor rural people of Bangladesh to engage with individual work. Women are importantly targeted by the NGOs and provided loans for different purposes. Gendered socio-economic rights clearly affect the ability of women to enter the economic sphere. If women are not able to enter the economic sphere as a result of rights aasrictions,


then empowerment and development, twin goals of microfinance, cannot be achieved" (Bermer & Mathew, 2009). 2.4 Micro-credit and its Impacts The impacts of micro-credit have been studied by different people. Ahamed (2002) says that "Up to June 2002, the total coverage of micro-credit programs was 13.5 million households. Some of the borrowers received loans from more than one institution. In cent days, the number of micro-credit borrowers has been increased in huge numbers earlier. The general consensus is that 15% of the borrowers are borrowing from than one institution. Khandker (quoted in Islam & Miya: 2008) states that in that e. the effective coverage is 11 million borrowers, which is roughly one quarter of the raral households. About 80% of them are from below poverty level and most of them are Âťomen. In other studies Rahman, 1986; Shehabuddin, 1992; Mizan, 1994 (quoted in Warn & Miya; 2008) conclude that women's participation in micro credit programs has positive results on women's empowerment. Some other evaluations (Montgomery et al., 19%: Rahman, 1999) provide a completely opposite view and conclude that participation leads to greater subordination of women and makes them more vulnerable in an unequal rural society". likewise, different group of scholars Goetz and Gupta, 1996; Montgomery et al (quoted m Islam & Miya, 2008) argues that micro-credit not only failed to empower women, but many instances disempowered them. They emphasizes that although women are earning money, they are lacking the power over it to spend as their interest. On the other band, not having access of market and lack of social and structural changes are being the hindrance for women's development. Some other examples show about the terrible behaviors of NGOs people to the women is another bitter part of micro credit operation. Cheston and Kuhn 2002, 29; McCarter 2006, 361, ( quoted in Elizabeth & Mahew, 2009) state that in highly restrictive environments, microfinance programs have potentially negative impacts on women, including increasing the burden of workloads, changing family dynamics, increased divorce rates and rising domestic violence rates. In such cases, neither the beneficiary can come over from this condition nor can avoid it. In Jaison & Kasia's (2008) study the beneficiaries said that 'WGO workers come to our kouse and try to make us understand the benefit of taking micro-credit. After


getting the loan, if we fail to repay the installments on time they put pressure on us. So, we are bound to get another loan to repay the previous loan ". 2.5 Examples from South Asia Micro credit is not only established in Bangladesh, gradually with the emancipation of NGOs entrance in development sector, it has started to attract the attention of different countries. In south Asian context, most of the developing countries have started to work in different sector of development through NGO's programs. Micro credit is being practiced as a tool to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan and other countries as well. Some stories from South Asian countries are presented below to give a look about the availability and practice of micro-credit. In Nepal, Parbati Karki, 27, purchased a Jersey cow five years ago by obtaining a small loan of Rs. 5,000 from Mahila Sahayogi Sahakari Sanstha (MSSS), a micro-credit provider. She now sells 18 litres of milk daily from her two cows and earns about Rs. 400. She has been able to erect a new house by putting together her income from the milk business and her husband's earnings, (povertynewsblog, 2011). Likewise, Baymma (India) became a member of SKS in 2001. With her first loan of $150, she bought a buffalo. By selling milk and other dairy products from the buffalo, she was able to save an average of $2.75 each week after paying her loan installment and buying feed for the buffalo. She is now relaxed with her income and able to dream a good future for their children's rearing and caring (unitus, 2011). In October 2007 Safura (Bangladesh) applied for the membership of the micro credit programme and received credit from Grameen-Bank. She rented the land from the landowner and cultivated vegetables. The land is now full of green and fresh vegetables. Safura is now counting a better future in her life, (nannan, 2011). In another example, Alice Pallwela lives in Srilanka. She is running her candy business for long. Pallewela's business now draws enough profit for her to save regularly, allowing her credit union to lend to other micro-entrepreneurs. She is now living with in peace and getting full respect from the family (microcreditsummit, 2011). 2.6. Conclusion


As we reviewed the literature above, it contains both negative and positive impacts of micro-credit in women. Some studies argue that micro-credit has really empowered women and enhancing their economic condition by making them aware about their rights and responsibilities. On the other hand, some other studies conclude that micro-credit has disempowered women by giving extra burden, harassment, violence and it has increased the divorce rate as well. Instead of empowering women, micro credit has created fear about its repayment process. So, here the concluding remarks can be made that micro-credit is not fully successful in its way of empowering women but its effort in the development sectors can be taken as a good step toward alleviating poverty. It has given the platform and opportunities to the poor women. Women are involved in income generating activities and moving towards the independence. Thus, women and micro-credit has YCiy CldSC relationship lf economic development. CHAPTER-3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 3.1. Methodology This study has two different parts. One part which includes photo story and another important part is theoretical and methodological understanding on this very topic. So, it is a photo story blending of two methods. Photo method and qualitative method is the main method to discuss here. I found the necessity of these two methods to get intended data and information from the respondents. This study also includes direct field observation and documented photos which is necessary to reach its goal as per the research questions.

3.2. Photo Method "The photograph, technically and aesthetically has a unique and distinctive relation with that which is/was in front of the camera. "(Wells, 1997:25). In this study photographs are used to demonstrate the


condition of poor Bangladeshi women and their economic condition. A single photograph can speak what thousand of words cannot. Nowadays, photographs have become popular among the people and it is an easy and attractive tool to make people understand about the truth. In recent days, increasing demand of photographs itself reflects the importance and popularity of it among the people. Still photography has its own importance to visualize the reality. In this study, I have tried to give the real picture of poor rural women using the still pictures those who are involved in income generative activities. Methodological understanding is presented in this paper and the photos are attested in photo story. During the data collection procedure, I tried to capture the moments where women were involved with their individual business (in the field, shop, market, etc). Those pictures are representing the actual condition of poor women and their involvement in income generating activities. The meaning is created according to the context and circumstances which examines how it is being taken by the viewers through different perspectives. "Semiotics is also the wonderful tool for analyzing images." (Lacey, 1998:56). Photographs help to see the world from different perspective and make people inform/know about the reality. "Photography does not simply reproduce the real; it recycles it- a key procedure of a modern society."(Sontag, 1977:174).For this reason, photo method is used here to show the women's economic condition after being involved with their small business through micro credit. Those photographs presented in the photo story with women's life time experiences try to give the real condition of rural women. As the words are not enough to explain the impacts of micro-credit, I used photo method which I believe helps to make the study more practical and meaningful. 3. 3. Qualitative Method (In depth Interviews) Qualitative method was used for selecting and analyzing the data. In depth interview with the beneficiary and analysis of the data in qualitative way is the main method of this study. Direct observation of the study area and interviews with micro-credit beneficiaries was the main data collection procedure.


In depth interview was made with eight women by asking question, which include 21 questions. Questions were made generally taking into consideration of rural poor women who are running their life with minimal amount of loan provided via different NGOs. Demographic questions including basic information were asked to the women, which includes name, gender, marital status, no. of children and other basic information. Other questions related with MGO connection, income generated activities; earning and saving including women's present economic conditions were asked. 8 in-depth interviews were made with the beneficiaries. "Case studies, which are generally considered to be qualitative studies, can combine a wide range of methods, including quantitative techniques. "(Bell, 1993: 63). Same pattern of questions were asked to all the respondents to make the study specific. Qualitative method I found an effective tool to analyze the case studies. While interviewing, mostly open ended questions were asked. 3.4. Sampling and rationale for sampling The sampling method is purposive which includes 8 women cases. In Gaibandha District five women were interviewed and three case studies from Hobiganj district were chosen. In this study the purpose of selecting case was to have in-depth interviews with the beneficiary and look into the progress interms of their economic ups and downs. Being economically empowered is not only associated with the economical aspects. It is a process to make woman independent in other essential sectors. Economic empowerment brings many other forms of independence together. For instance, education, health, social status, self realization and actualization, social activeness, decision making power etc are some of them. I choose eight women from two different districts (Gaibandha and Hobiganj) to have interview who are affiliated with NGOs and doing their own business. I have not included any voice of the NGO people or other experts. This study is fully devoted with the poor illiterate people. What I believe is the information collected by the direct beneficiaries is more reliable than secondary sources. I could have interviewed women activists or other professionals but my area of interest was different than other researchers. I believe the voice of the voiceless is more powerful than the experts. I found eight cases ideal for this project to go in depth taking into consideration of available resources and time.


3.5. Area chosen Gaibandha and Hobiganj district of Bangladesh were chosen for this study where most of the families are under the poverty line. Extreme poverty lies over there and people don't have access to modern technology. Most of its habitants are still struggling for the basic needs including food, sanitation, education etc. Those families, who are poor, cannot afford or borrow big loan from the conventional bank which needs own land and property. Earlier, village people used to depend on the so-called rich people in the community and paying high interest rate for minimal amount. Considering this scenario, many local and national NGOs are been established with the aim of helping poor and elevating poverty. Most of Gaibandha and Hobiganj people are depending on microcredit provided by different local and national NGOs. The key concern was to find out the impacts of micro credit in empowering women's economic condition in terms of their income and saving. Actually, the places I have chosen are really vulnerable places of Bangladesh where lack of resources and opportunities can be seen in a greater extent. 3.6. Data collection procedures This section of the study includes taking photographs, observing the property of respondents and exploring the real condition of women. Direct interview with women and field observation was the main way of collecting the data. As I mentioned earlier Gaibandha and Hobiganj Districts were chosen for the study, I went there, stayed with the village people and mixed up with them to get the intended information. During the data collection process, the cooperation of the local people is unforgettable. Their support and hospitality made the procedure more effective and fruitful in many ways. I went to visit the women directly and interviewed them with myself observation. So, data collection process does not include any secondary source, it fully depends on primary data.

3.7. Method used in Analysis Qualitative method was used to analyze the data. In depth interviews and collected data are presented in analyzing section using qualitative approach. "Qualitative analysis procedure emphasizes the


capacity of texts to convey multiple meanings, depending upon the receiver" (Gunter: 2000:82). The researcher should have the idea about the multiple meaning while analyzing the data qualitatively. In this study, cases of women, their present economic condition, their satisfactions/dissatisfactions with affiliated NGOs and suggestions are presented in analyzing part. Analyzing part is completed on the basis of interviews and obtained data from the interviewee. Genuine experiences of the beneficiaries and their connection with NGOs are presented in data analysis part in qualitative way including women's direct quotations. CHAPTER- 4 DATA ANALYSIS AND PRESENTATION 4.1. Data presentation In this chapter, data are presented depending on the collected materials. The analysis is made in qualitative way as I have discussed in the methodological section. The study does not include huge number of cases so that I have avoided quantitative method. Selected photos are taken as the demand of the study but the analysis of every picture separately is not possible here. I am not presenting all the pictures with its semiotic analysis. Photos are presented in the photo story with captions and stories. The stories are not created; it tells the truth and represents the real picture of women in regard to their economic stipulation. The study is done on a very limited number of women. So, the result cannot be generalized for whole Bangladeshi Micro-credit borrowers. But the condition of poor people is almost same all over the Bangladesh in terms of their economic status. From the study, I found all women I interviewed were able to use their income on their own and their economic condition has been improved after taking the loans. Six out of eight women have involved themselves in income generating activities and other two women had given it to their husbands. The privilege for spending income is not restricted by their husband or any other male fellows. It means women can use productive and nonproductive assets as their wish. Most importantly the participation and involvement of women in income generative activities is visible. Almost all of them had no home before the affiliation with NGOs and had no


possible option to depend upon. Available resources (Conventional Bank, Charity, Local rich people, etc) were not trust worthy and not easily accessible too. In this case, NGOs have become the preeminent alternative to rely upon and to overcome from the poverty line. 4.2. Analysis of the data The literature review above, explores both negative and positive impact of micro-credit in empowering women's economic condition. This study was conducted to find out whether the NGOs are able to empower women? The main focuses were given to the beneficiaries and in depth interview were conducted to dig out the economic ups and downs of the women. So far the economic empowerment is concerned; the focus was given to Microcredit lending institutions. There are millions of beneficiary all over the Bangladesh who have made micro-credit as their major source of income. As the data collection procedure depends on in depth interviews, here I am presenting the analytical form of the data which I obtained during my study. It includes the saying of women and their stories, experiences after getting involved with micro-credit. The sub-headings try to enlighten the whole study in analytical and elaborative way. 4.2.1. Micro-credit, the only way to depend upon The observation suggests that for the poor people in Bangladesh, the entrance of MFIs in economic world has brought new hope within themselves. People had no alternate way to depend upon earlier. The very first need for the people is to fulfill their basic requirements. Most of the village people as I visited and observed in my study area, are poorest of the poor who hardly know about outer world. They are limited in very few resources. All the people I interviewed have no other source of income so they fully depend upon the NGO's loan. "Before taking the loans our economic condition was very bad, we had no source of income. It was difficult to manage food and other basic things. But now we all are happy with the progress. My family members help me to bring the goods from the market. I am satisfied with the income and in Peace for this Bank", said Rahela, a beneficiary of Grameen bank.


Chapala Rani Pal, a habitant of Gaibandha, is running her pottery business. She said "My economic condition was very bad. Then I decided to start the work. Seeing the progress of my neighbors I decided to take loans from BRAC. Actually, pottery is like our family business. By the name, we are kumar, which means those who makes the pot of soil." "NGOs give the loans in very low interest rate and I was influenced from other women around", Mosammot Anwara Begum (Gaibandha) said. She added, taking money from the local rich people is not safe and interest is also high. In this case, micro credit is an easy option. She took loans from VDRS (Village Development Rehabilitation Sangstha) a local NGO of Gaibandha and started the fishery business. She is running her family with this business and happy with her progress. Those women who want to start their business micro-credit has become the only way to depend upon. NGOs are available in local and national level. 4.2.2. Independent with individual business A simple word "independent" carries huge meaning. Actually, talking about Bangladeshi village women, there are very less opportunities to engage themselves in income generative activities. In this case, those NGOs. who are providing micro-credit with the slogan of women empowerment, have given the platform to start their OWTI business The main objective of taking loan was "to be independent'1. Bulu Rani replied to the question why did you start taking loan from SKS? She said "My all family members encouraged me for starting this work. Taking loans from NGO was easy than begging for money with the so-called rich people. They ask for more interest and if we are unable to pay according to their need, they can do anything. So, NGO is the safe option for poor". SKS (Samaj Kalyan Sangstha), a local NGO from where she took loan and started farming profession. "I was running out of money. My economic condition was worst, so I planned to start my own business". I started working with Tk. 6,0007- loan. Initially I had no source of income. There was no proper place and opportunity to put my effort. But VDRS (Village Development Rehabilitation Sangstha) has given the platform and encouraged me to be independent" Most Firoza (Gaibandha) said. Now women like Firoza & Bulu Rani have got the courage to start their own work. In most of the developing countries government is not able to provide best alternative way to its people to survive in proper way. In that case, people have found micro-credit very easy and handy.


4.2.3. Women's economic condition is getting better Rahela (Hobiganj) used to manage one time food hardly a day with so many difficulties. But, recently she is earning Tk. 3,000-4,0007- per month and rearing her children. She said, "Before taking the loans our economic condition was worst, but now we all are happy with the progress. "BRAC gives more money than others and my husband also told me to take loan from this Bank. I willingly took loan from this bank and started my work. BRAC is the best among other NGOs available in this province. Now my economic condition is improved than before." Chapala Rani Pal (Gaibandha) said. Mosammot Anwara Begum (Gaibandha), her economic condition was very poor initially. After taking loan it is improving. Now all of her children are going to school. She used to work as hookers and had to depend on others for food. But with this loan she has got one independent way to live her life. Earning depends on her effort. Now she is saving per month l,000/-excluding all the expenses which need to run the family. Salma Begum (Hobiganj) said, "Earlier my husband used to get Tk. 15,00/per month by pulling other's rickshaw but now he earns more than Tk. 4,500/- which is a good earning comparing his earlier earnings. I am satisfied with the progress and want to continue this profession. Six out of eight women I interviewed have improved their economic condition after the involvement with NGOs. 4.2.4. Dreaming about Future Those women who were passing through extreme poverty are daring to save money for their future although it is very less amount. They all pay weekly installment as per the rule of NGOs and most of them are saving Tk. 20/- to Tk. 30/- in their saving account during the weekly payment. Initially saving was beyond their imagination as they were struggling for the basic needs. To manage the food on time was a big challenge for the poor. Rahela (Hobiganj) is paying Tk. ISO/- weekly as an installment and saving Tk. 307-in her saving account for the betterment of her children. She said "Initially my income was actually O/-. I had faced so many difficulties and had to suffer for basic needs. But now I am earning Tk. 3,000-4,000/- per month and running my family." Same happens


with Anwara (Gaibandha), who is paying weekly 630/-Tk for installment and saving 30/Tk in her saving account. There are several other examples those who are saving a small amount of money with the aim of better future. They are hopeful that such a minimal amount will secure their future. Although, it is a small try but the awareness has been developed inside them which is a very good sign of development. Even in the rural places of Bangladesh, educational institutions are available in every step which shows that the need of education for development has been realized and people have started to think about it. Poor people are being alert about the forthcoming possibilities. 4.2.5. Social Recognition Nazma Begum (Hobiganj) is helping her family. In-fact the whole family is depending on her income. Her husband also helps her in the field and selling the products to the markets. In the male dominated society where men are taken as the "bread winner" of the family and women as care taker, the gender stereotypical role has been changed with the involvement of women in income generative activities. Rahela (Hobuganj) says, "Initially the -working environment was not women friendly. But now with my progress nobody dares to question or point the finger on me rather some are influenced and some others are jealous of my progress." This experience gives positive symbol of women empowerment. Women are being respected in the eyes of the people and some have become entrepreneurs in the society. Chapala Rani Pal (Gaibandha) has her pottery business. Her husband sells the pot in the market because it is difficult for her to go to the market and sell the products. Her husband and other family members help her in bringing soil and preparing the pot. She had no space before in her family and relatives but now she is getting respect within her circle. In fact, it is the effect of earning and being independent. Her independency has brought light in her family and within herself. 4.2.6. Increment in bargaining power Women are running their individual work and have created their space in their family. Their decision making power in the family has increased and they have become powerful than earlier. Now their


husbands consult with wives before taking any decision. Initially women used to agree whatever their husbands decide and they had no space to put their voice against the violence and discrimination within the family and society. But, with the earning, their bargaining power has been increased. Women have got the courage to give disagree vote if they are not happy with the decisions made by others male fellows. It has always been seen the domination of males in different spheres of their life of the women. NGOs role in empowering women's bargaining power is mentionable because these days' women are not same as they used to be ages back. Their eternal empowerment has come out as a social change. Of course gradual development in education and other sector has brought new arena in women development. 4.2.7. Ownership and control over Income Ownership is the first basic element to make women independent and powerful. Almost all women I interviewed in Gaibandha and Hobiganj are using the income on their own. They have their own control in their capital. But, I found that as women have all the responsibilities to look after the family, it is easy for men to let women do their work so that they don't need to think about family matters. It shows that men are avoiding the responsibilities in the name of women's freedom. But, the truth is that women are able to use the income in their complex situations. Initially, women used to depend on men's earning and the supreme power was given to the men. By law and social rule, no women were able to have access over productive/non-productive assets. But now with the emancipation people have started to become liberal and modern in many respects. If women are working and earning, they had to have full control which is the fundamental rights too. My observation in this study is that those women, who are engaged in income generating activities, are able to use that property and income by themselves. Ownership, having control over property and use of the resources without any obstacles are the main forms of empowerment. Micro-credit has given that power to women so that they can use the income according to their wish. It has given the strength to the women to use their income in proper way. 4.2.8. Gender Stereotyping Exists


Having courage to do something is very hazardous sometimes those who are bound to stay inside the social and cultural boundary. Till now, in every field work if any woman comes out and starts to do something, then definitely she has to face difficulties. Anwara Begum (Gaibandha) started to talk without being stopped when I asked; being a woman did you face any difficulty to start this business? She said, "There are problems everywhere. Many people say, you are shame less and they talk very dirty things about me. They tease me sometimes and try to misbehave with me when I am alone in my shop. They say very malicious thing which is unendurable. am compelled to avoid such comments, if I care, I will have to die without food. It's not my interest; it's my need for my survival. So, I can't stop working. " Anwara has courage and inner power to face the situation, but all women are not the same. Some women who are in need of work can not come out and tackle the situation. Their thought has been developed with the societal boundary. They might think that staying inside is safer than being criticized. Courageous women are limited in number, but not in zero which gives the hope for upcoming generation. "I wanted my husband to be independent. Now he earns and our family is running properly. It was difficult for me to start my own work because as I have my son and all responsibilities to take care of him are mine. 1 don’t have enough time and energy to do my own work. So, I thought it is better to buy own rickshaw so that my husband does not need to pull somebody else's rickshaw", said Sulma Begum ( Hobiganj). Though the income is used for the family purpose, Sulma is not involved in economic activities. She has to depend on her husband. The aim of micro credit to empower women is being misused for other's interest. Nazma Begum (Hobiganj) said "My husband helps me in field and selling the products in the market". She is also facing the problems of being a woman. She said, "When I started my work, there were so many difficulties; the working environment was not women friendly. I can produce the things but cannot go to market to sell it. I have to depend on others to sell the goods in the market. So, the income does not come to my hand directly." Aforementioned examples are some among thousands. Almost each woman has to go through such situation every day in rural village. Women development is not imaginable until the social barriers are


removed. If women are producing, why would they let others to enjoy the benefit? Still, women are given subordinate roles and are compel to stay inside conservative thoughts. 4.2.9. Lack of Education and Awareness Almost all women I interviewed were illiterate. Some of them can hardly sign in the form and other cannot. But every step of NGO activities (while taking loans or paving installments) are in written formats. It has created difficulties for the women in every repayment. Most of the women are paying their installment weekly basis but they are not aware about the interest rate. Generally, the interest rate is 15% which is added with the borrowed money. Due to the lack of education and general knowledge of math, poor people cannot think critically. As the result, they have to suffer all the time. But I observed that most of the village people are serious about their children's rearing and education. So, we can expect that soon the problem will be solved and the illiteracy will be vanished. CHAPTER - 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION 5.1. Discussion The data presented above and its analysis gives the clear picture about the condition of women. Their participation in income generating activities can be taken as a good symbol of women development. Micro-credit has performed its role as a resource and the women are using that resource for improving their life standard. Women's independency in individual business and their improving economic status shows that micro-credit is somehow in its way of achieving the targeted goal of alleviating poverty. The following points try to give the quick look of the findings. •

Women are involved in their individual business with the help of loans provided by micro-credit lending organizations,

•

NGOs have given the platform for the rural poor women to engage themselves in income generating activities,


Social recognition for the women became possible after the involvement with micro credit lending organizations,

Micro-credit lending organization has created a systematic environment where people can feel safe to be affiliated with,

The gender gap has been decreased and other awareness including education, health, and healthy habit has been improved,

Women's decision making and bargaining power has been developed,

Women have their control over their income and assets,

People have achieved future oriented plans which shows that they are alert about forthcoming possibilities,

Women's bargaining power has been increased, 4 Support and respect from the family members and relatives became possible through micro-credit,

NGOs have played vital role in enhancing economic condition of women which can be taken as a good sign of economic development for the whole country,

5.2. Conclusion The main objective of conducting this study was to find out the impacts of micro-credit lending organization on empowering women's economic condition. Throughout this study, it was found that the impact of NGOs on empowering women was positive. Before 1970s, rural poor people had no options to involve in income generating activities because the commercial banking was not so poor-friendly in its procedures and not easily accessible too. In 1976,


when Dr. Mahmmud Yunus came with the idea that even a small investment can bring an immense change in alleviating poverty; the practice of micro credit was started. With the popularity of microcredit, the expectation grew up in high range. After the establishment of Grameen Bank, numerous other micro-credit lending organizations started to invest with the aim of eliminating poverty from the country and the targets were helpless poor rural women. Now, among the micro credit borrowers, 95% are women who are engaged in small business. They have had bunch of bitter experiences of being poor and living under poverty. On the other hand they have success stories as well after being involved with NGOs. There are several reasons behind growing interest of poor in micro-credit. Those people who does not hold their individual land and property, for them it is difficult to get loans from commercial banks. Comparing to micro-credit lending organizations, conventional banking is tough in its procedure and not easily accessible too. Most of the rural people are illiterate and uninformed about proper implementation of the available resources. In some cases the NGO people suggest and give creative ideas to the borrowers so that they can use the loan in appropriate ways. In this study, most of the women I interviewed could enhance their economic condition after the association with micro-credit lending organizations. Women's decision making power has been increased and they have got social recognitions in many respects. Women have become optimistic about their future and aware about their children's rearing. Psychological development and positive anticipation about the life can be smelled among the poor. Their involvements in income generative activities show the new direction for the development of entire economy of Bangladesh. Furthermore, easy access to loan, handy distribution procedures and consideration of the circumstances are playing the key role to arouse the interest of poor people towards micro-credit. It is a small investment unlike commercial banking which does not give any fear of having great loss. And the most important reason of its attractiveness is it came with the motto of women empowerment. As I have presented in the analysis section, most of the women I interviewed could enhance their economic conditions. It shows that their efforts are seen in the economic development. So far, I found one


woman has taken loan and directly and indirectly all members of the family are involved in that work. So, micro-credit is providing opportunities to engage in business not only the very beneficiary but also other family members. It is quite impressive to see that such a small amount can give numerous opportunities if one utilizes it in proper way. Moreover, lack of education and consciousness can be seen in a greater extent because almost all women I interviewed had no idea about the interest rate of the borrowed loans. More awareness building programs are essential which can pave the way to utilize the available resources in a productive way. Gender gap is still seen in greater extent as women do not have access to the market. The conclusion can be made depending on the intact study that in a greater extent Micro credit lending organizations are successful in their objectives by enhancing the economic condition of poor women via providing loans. Women's economic empowerment can be seen as they are earning money and engaged in their individual business. Some have become the entrepreneurs in the society and most of them have got the recognition in their community. It is the great achievement of micro-credit in mounting the women's status in the society. Women are not the burden for the family rather they can run the family on their own, which has been proved by their entrance in the economic world. 5.3. Limitations of the study Numerous problems occurred during this study. The main problem I realized was language. Most of the micro-credit holders were poor and illiterate and their local dialects were not understandable. So, it was difficult to interact with them. Though I appointed a translator, it was complicated to make people understand what I really wanted them to say. Limited time and budget was another barrier or else the study would have been more effective. I had selected eight cases depending on available resources and time, which may fail to represent the whole Bangladesh. And also the scale of women's economic empowerment through micro-credit cannot be measured with the minimal number of case studies. Besides, very limited access of books related with micro credit made me feel some incompleteness in the literature review. 5.4. Further Suggestions and Recommendations


In a greater extent Bangladeshi rural people are depending on micro-credit. Although micro credit is working as a tool for social change, there are numerous challenges ahead to reach its goal of empowering women. Only providing micro-credit cannot be an option for alleviating poverty from rural Bangladesh or any other country. Providing minimal amount of money has no meaning until it comes with the proper utilization techniques. Proper agenda to raise the women from their poor economic conditions through different skillful trainings and awareness building programs are necessary for its success. And of course minimizing the gender gap is essential to fetch the women in the main development agenda. Another important thing I realized during the study is micro-credit programs are targeted for the poor illiterate people but illiterate friendly. Micro-credit lending organizations should think that if the programs are targeted for the illiterate poor, the process should be handy and clear to its beneficiaries. There is hope that the upcoming generation can undertake this problem as they are being sent to the schools and hopefully this problem will not remain longer. Besides, I observed the continuation of stereotypical professions by the micro credit beneficiaries. Most of the women are doing farming and some are involved with small business. It seems that if women get proper ways to implement the provided loans, the scenario will be different. Even a very small effort of NGOs can bring smile in thousand faces of the poor. If NGOs can provide proper guidance to the poor, then the twin goal of micro credit, alleviating poverty and women empowerment can be achieved.


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