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About usFaculty of Behavioural and Social SciencesOrganizationNewsPhD Defences BSS

Women's empowerment in the context of microfinance services

PhD ceremony:dr. M.A. (Marloes) Huis
When:October 18, 2018
Supervisors:prof. dr. S. (Sabine) Otten, prof. dr. B.W. (Robert) Lensink
Co-supervisor:dr. N. (Nina) Hansen
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
Women's empowerment in the context of microfinance services

Women’s empowerment is an important goal in achieving sustainable development worldwide. Offering women access to microfinance services (e.g., microloans, training) is one way to increase women’s empowerment. However, previous research reports mixed findings regarding its effectiveness. In this dissertation, we combine qualitative and quantitative research to systematically investigate the meaning and development of women’s empowerment in the context of microfinance services.

First, based on a theoretical review, we propose to differentiate between three distinct but related dimensions of women’s empowerment to understand it: personal (individuals’ personal beliefs and actions), relational (beliefs and actions with respect to relevant others, e.g., spouse), and societal (position in society) empowerment. Thus, women’s empowerment is a process involving personal, relational, and societal awareness, beliefs, and behavior to strengthen women’s position. Second, a correlational study among female microfinance borrowers in Vietnam shows the importance of considering women’s relational embeddedness when investigating women’s empowerment. Third, two studies show that training tailored to the needs of female entrepreneurs can empower them. Specifically, a large longitudinal field experiment in Vietnam showsthat access to gender- and business-training increased women’s personal and relational empowerment over time. Furthermore, field experiments in Sri Lanka show that one goal-setting session improved women’s goal-setting skills and tentative signs of women’s empowerment in an interactive task with their husbands.

In sum, this dissertation contributes to the theoretical and practical discussion on how to strengthen women’s empowerment by stressing the importance of offering needs-based training and taking the relational context in which women are embedded into account.