Microfinance is not a new concept in these days it is recognized as a most powerful and effective tool to reduce the poverty. Empowerment of women is one of very important issue in developing countries. It is not only seen as a development objective in itself but as a means of promoting growth, reducing poverty and promoting better governance (World Bank, 2001).
Microfinance plays role in improving women decision making by contributing in economic activities. In this study we will evaluate the impact of microfinance on indicators of women’s empowerment in the urban slums of the Lahore district of Pakistan. In this study gender’s equity, self-confidence, and status will specifically design and implement to explore the link between microfinance and women’s empowerment. This study will justify that microfinance can improve the position of women through: i. Access to independent income
ii. Control over savings and credit use
iii. Ability to bring productive asset to household economy
iv. To maintain gender equity
In this study an attempt will made to explore the socio economic determinants of women empowerment in which microfinance will central economic determinant. This study will collect the data through survey that is a quantitative research strategy that involves the structured collection of data from a pre-determined sample. Questionnaires could be filling through Self-administrated, Online or Postal. We will apply Correlation statistics to determine the mutual relationship between gender equality, self-confidence, status and women’s empowerment.
Then we will apply Regression analysis to measure the relationship gender equality, self-confidence, status and women’s empowerment. This study will relate to the women in the Lahore city. The fewer resources and sources are the big problem. Limited time period is also the limitation of this study. Estimated time for completing this research is approximately 5 to 6 months and the expenditures are approximately Rs. 10,000/- (PKR). Key Words: Microfinance, Women empowerment, Gender’s equity, Self-confidence Introduction
The first project of microfinance in Pakistan was initiated in 1960s when Dr. Akhtar Hameed khan implemented the idea of microcredit and launched the Comilla Project as an experiment of microcredit. After that, various initiatives were taken in the field of microfinance in the following decades including Orange Pilot Project in Karachi, Agha Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) etc. Working women contribute to national income of the country and maintain a sustainable livelihood of the families and communities, throughout the world.
As they face many socio- cultural attitude, legal barriers, lack of education and personal difficulties. Traditionally, women have been marginalized. They are rarely financially independent and often they are more helpless members of society. About 70% of world’s poor are women. Yet they have no access to credit and other financial services.
Therefore, microfinance often target women. Microfinance is a critical tool to empower women from poor household. So, particularly women can get benefit from microfinance institutions as many microfinance institutions target only women, to empower them. In the context of Pakistan, where social and economic empowerment of women is still very low, it is important to identify interventions through which this empowerment shortage could be reversed. In the Global Gender Gap Report, published by the World Economic Forum in 2007, Pakistan is ranked at 126 amongst a total of 128 countries.
Empowerment of women means to let women survive and let them live a life with dignity, humanity, respect, self esteem and self reliance. Empowerment is also related to the process of internal change (Mayoux 1998) and to the capacity and right to make decisions (Kabeer 2001). It consists of change, choice and power. Kabeer (1999) stresses that women’s empowerment is the process to acquire the ability from which those who have been denied the ability to make the strategic life choices.
Her emphasis that ability to exercise choice incorporates three interrelated dimensions: Resources, Agency and Achievements. According to UNIFEM, “to generate choices, gaining the ability and exercise bargaining power”, “developing a sense of self worth, to secure desired changes, belief in one’s ability and the right to control one’s life” are important elements of women empowerment. Women will be empowered when they will have full control over their own life.
Microfinance is a powerful tool to self empower the poor people especially women at world level and especially in developing countries. Microfinance activities can give them a means to climb out of poverty. From early 1970’s women movement in number of countries increasing to improve poverty through microfinance programs.
The problem of women less access to credit was given a particular concentration at First International Women Conference in Mexico in 1975. The evolution of microfinance is from Bangladesh since late 1970s and a very successful project. But in Pakistan, the movement of microfinance sector started from Agha Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) and Orangi Piolt Project (OPP). With the passage of time microfinance becomes NGO activity and five microfinance banks have been started under State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) ordinance.
Role of Microfinance in Women Empowerment
The logic of microfinance’s potential for empowerment is similar to the economic model of empowerment: microfinance makes women economically independent by putting capital and financial resources in their hands. Economic independence results in higher bargaining power for women in their households and communities, and subsequently results in higher prestige and self-esteem.
The focus on women’s empowerment in the context of microfinance brings to light the significance of gender relations in policy development circles more prominently than ever before. Women are vaunted as a ‘weapon against poverty’ (DFID 2006, 1). Microfinance is a type of banking service which provides access to financial and non financial services to low income or unemployed people. Microfinance services lead to women empowerment by positively influencing women’s decision making power at household level and their overall socioeconomic status.
By the end of 2000, microfinance services had reached over 79 million of the poorest of the world. As such microfinance has the potential to make a significant contribution to gender equality and promote sustainable livelihood and better working condition for women. (ILO Geneva) It has been well documented that an increase in women resources or better approach for credit facilities results in increased well being of the family especially children. (Maoux, 1997; Kabeer, 2001).
Chaudary and Nosheen (2009) women empowerment is one of important issue of present day development policies in developing countries. Since empowerment is multidimensional concept, it is determined by many socio economic factors and cultural norms. Cheston and Kuhn (2002) stated that microfinance programs have been potential to transform poor relation and to empower women especially by using case study of Sinapi Aba Trust. Although women access to financial resources has substantially increased yet loans given to women differ in sizes.
In spite of this, just financial help not enough to empower women and improve well being but if they are properly designed then they make important contribution to women empowerment.