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Lesson 14

Taking gender into account

Picture of the inside of a bank

Have you ever wondered why women, who have traditionally been the minority of clients in the formal banking sector and cooperatives, have become the majority of clients of microfinance institutions? What is the problem with the banks and why do microfinance suppliers so often target women?

In this lesson you are invited to reflect on the difficulties women may experience when they approach banks and then join the discussions taking place between Prakash and his friends who are concerned about the activities of IMPROVE, a local NGO which has started lending money to their wives. You will discover there are good business reasons for microfinance suppliers to target women but most organisations are also interested in social change, which can have both positive and negative consequences.

Picture of a female client of SEWA Bank

One institution which can show the way in addressing the needs of women clients is SEWA Bank in India. This Bank was started by the Self-Employed Women’s Association back in 1973 and is run by women for women. Banks can learn much from SEWA but what about the microfinance institutions – should they do more to incorporate men as clients? The lesson concludes with a look at agricultural cooperatives and what they may have to do to ensure better participation of women in their affairs.

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