Fernando, Jude

Non-Governemental Organizations, Micro-Credit, and Empowerment of Women.

The Annals of the American Academy.


Empowerment of women by means of micro-credit-based income generation programs is a new orthodoxy in the development discourse. The first part of the article appraises this phenomenon in a broader historical context. It shows how women's interests are being subsumed by and subordinated to the priorities of mainstream development in ways detrimental to the radical aspirations of the NGOs' empowerment project. The second part is a critical evaluation of the current approaches used in studies on micro-credit and empowerment. These studies have mostly focused on the final outcomes of micro-enterprises rather than the process through which they are achieved. The third part, based on field research in Bangladesh, demonstrates that the widely documented successes of micro-enterprises are a result of the activities of the very institutions that are considered to be oppressive to women. In this process, NGOs contribute to further legitimization of the same institutions that their micro-enterprises desire to transform.