Targeting married women in microfinance programmes: transforming or reinforcing gender inequalities? : evidence from Ethiopia

H. Bekele

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


With the expansion of microfinance programmes in the low-income countries, millions of poor women in these countries have been able to access microfinancial services, particularly microcredit and savings. The provision of microfinance services to women has been largely premised on the assumption that credit facilitates or expands women’s selfemployment opportunities, and consequently leads to their empowerment. In recent years, however, this proposition is under scrutiny and debate, as the available studies provide
conflicting evidence. This study explores whether and how microfinance granted to married women affects the intra-household division of labour and decision-making power. It also investigates the effect of an HIV/AIDS infection on microfinancing results. The study compared the effects across two regions in Ethiopia in order to understand the role of local socio-cultural practices and economic structures. Simultaneously, the effects across two (regional) microfinancing institutions were compared, which differed in institutional regulations and strategies. The study took as its point of departure the bargaining theory approach of the household and the differentiation between cooperative and non-cooperative models, in order to examine how women’s access to microfinance services affected women’s bargaining power within the household. The study employed a (comparative) case study research strategy in order to understand the complexity of (structural, cultural and individual) factors shaping the outcomes of microfinance programmes with regard to gender relations. A mix of research methods and data collection techniques, including key informant interviews, in-depth interviews, a small-scale household survey, and focus group discussions were used to understand the resource allocation and bargaining dynamics within the household. The study focused on the Amhara Credit and Saving Institution (ACSI) and the Omo Microfinance Institution (OMFI), which were operational in the Amhara and Southern Nations and Nationalities People’s (SNNPR) regions during 2004, respectively. Both of them worked with female clients in the rural areas and had five or more years of experience in microfinancing. In the Amhara region, the study was conducted in the Mangudo Kebele, located in the Moretena Juru district, of the North Shoa zone, while in the SNNPR, the study was conducted in the Dirama, Wita and Wolenshu Kebeles, located in the Meskan district of the Gurage zone. The case study’s locations were selected because of their distinctiveness in socio-cultural practices and economic structures, and because of accessibility. The study aimed to answer the following research questions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Folmer, Henk, Promotor
  • Bock, Bettina, Co-promotor
Award date13 Jan 2010
Place of Publication[S.l.
Print ISBNs9789085855309
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • women
  • low income
  • poverty
  • finance
  • credit
  • gender relations
  • empowerment
  • less favoured areas
  • developing countries
  • efficiency
  • ethiopia
  • microfinance
  • married persons
  • gender
  • female equality


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