A Development Dud: Is Microcredit in Bangladesh Actually Improving Women’s Lives? A Case Study in Matlab

Mary Robbins , University of California, Los Angeles

For decades, women in developing countries have been considered the most cost-effective vehicle for economic growth. This belief is seen in donors’ and State budgets in microfinance and cash transfers. The theory being: if women have better economic and health outcomes, a social transformation will soon follow. At the moment, this transformation is being realized. Maternal mortality rates continue to decrease and household savings and spending for women increases. Thus, States and institutions deem programs and policies as “empowering” to women and girls. Bangladesh is an exemplary case study of fulfilling social and economic development targets for women, however, it is also home to highest incidences of intimate partner violence in the world. This paper analyzes married women’s participation in a microcredit program in rural Bangladesh and its effects on their mobility, decision-making, and gender norms. The paper also assesses married men’s attitudes amidst this social and economic shift.

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 Presented in Session 169. Flash Session: New Directions in Economy, Labor Force, Education, and Inequality