Economic Empowerment of Women and Role of NGOs in Bangladesh

View With Charts And Images  



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. 

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?

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.

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.

: 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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

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.

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

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 »omen. 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”.

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 “.

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.



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.

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

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
in-terms 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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
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

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.

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
Six out of eight women I interviewed have improved their
economic condition after the involvement with NGOs.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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

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

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

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

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

decision making and bargaining power has been developed,

have their control over their income and assets,

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

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

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,

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 micro-credit, 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 Micro­credit 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.

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.

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
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