The Bumpy Road to Empowerment: Assessing Microfinancing in Sri Lanka from a Women's Empowerment Perspective
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Microfinancing is a development strategy employed across the globe. In short, microfinancing refers to the provision of small loans/microcredit to impoverished populations. Microfinancing is particularly aimed at (rural) women and is professed to be positively concerned with women’s empowerment. Microfinancing became a central tenet of the Sri Lankan post-war development strategy. Recently, women’s protests against the negative implications of microfinancing broke out in Sri Lanka. In light of these protests, this thesis investigates the evolvement of the empowering impact of microfinancing on rural Sri Lankan women. In this regard, the overall aim of this research is to 1) assess microfinancing’s potential to empower women, and to 2) assess the appropriateness of microfinancing as a development strategy in the Sri Lankan context. To this end, Sara Longwe’s Women’s Empowerment Framework is applied, a framework designed to analyze women’s empowerment through developmental efforts across five distinct dimensions of empowerment: 1) welfare, 2) access, 3) conscientization, 4) participation, 5) control. By using this framework, this thesis synthesizes the current academic debate surrounding microfinancing and women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka and purports a distinctly multi-dimensional understanding of the concept empowerment. From the analysis of rural Sri Lankan women’s empowerment across Longwe’s dimensions, constraints are distilled hampering empowerment and overarching patterns are deduced. These constraints and patterns are relevant not only in reference to the Sri Lankan case specifically but could also inform future research and deepen our understanding of microfinancing as a strategy that has the potential to both empower and disempower women at the same time.