Rethinking Empowerment: Gender and Development in a Global/Local World

By Jane L. Parpart; Shirin M. Rai et al. | Go to book overview

11
The disciplinary power of micro credit
Examples from Kenya and Cameroon
Josephine Lairap-Fonderson

Introduction

Micro credit is increasingly heralded as a means for empowering women in the Third World. Yet, these views are becoming less fashionable as the limitations of micro credit come to the fore, particularly its failure to reduce women's poverty or transform gender relations. My research on women and micro credit in Kenya and Cameroon suggests that the provision of micro credit to women in general, and to sub-Saharan African women in particular, acts more like a disciplinary power, turning them into 'efficient economic actors' to be inserted in the market economy, rather than a tool for their empowerment.

This chapter discusses the tensions between micro credit's potential to empower and to discipline. First, it explores the concept of empowerment, analysing why it came to be appropriated by the development community in general, particularly in Africa. Second, it discusses Foucault's notion of disciplinary power and highlights its relevance to micro credit and women's empowerment process. The third part uses the Foucauldian framework to evaluate the policies and practices of micro credit in Kenya and Cameroon. This is an interesting comparison, as Kenya was one of the first African countries to embrace micro credit, while Cameroon adopted it later. This difference reflects their different economic trajectories, and their impact on government and donor community efforts (or not) to fight poverty and gender subordination. The fourth section assesses the extent to which women are empowered as a result of their access to micro credit. The last part briefly compares formal micro credit schemes with grassroots ones, such as the rotating savings and credit associations, in order to evaluate their relative empowerment potential.


Appropriating the concept of empowerment

The concept of women's empowerment can be traced back to the emergence of the feminist movement. In the 1970s, increasing awareness of the deteriorating position of Third World women following the world economic recession brought the issue of empowerment to the fore. Despite its popularity, empowerment as a concept is difficult to define. Empowerment for one person is not to another,

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Rethinking Empowerment: Gender and Development in a Global/Local World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Routledge/Warwick Studies in Globalisation ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors xi
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Part I - Theory and Praxis 1
  • 1 - An Introduction 3
  • References 18
  • 2 - Education as a Means for Empowering Women 22
  • References 36
  • Part II - Women's Empowerment in a Global World 39
  • 3 - The Janus Effect 41
  • Notes 57
  • References 58
  • 4 - Toward Empowerment 61
  • Notes 75
  • References 76
  • 5 - Rethinking Technoagency 79
  • References 92
  • Part III - The Nation State, Politics and Women's Empowerment 95
  • 6 - Beyond Official Empowerment Discourse 97
  • References 110
  • 7 - Women's Mobilization in Chile and Turkey 112
  • Notes 127
  • References 129
  • 8 - The Quota Debate in India 133
  • References 145
  • 9 - The Case for Female Peasants in India 147
  • Notes 158
  • References 159
  • Part IV - The Local/Global, Development and Women's Empowerment 163
  • 10 - The Pra Approach 165
  • References 178
  • 11 - Examples from Kenya and Cameroon 182
  • References 197
  • 12 - Depoliticizing Empowerment in a Tanzanian Family Planning Project 199
  • Notes 213
  • References 215
  • 13 - Informal Politics, Grassroots Ngos and Women's Empowerment in the Slums of Bombay 218
  • Notes 232
  • References 234
  • Part V - Conclusion 237
  • 14 - Concluding Thoughts on (em)powerment, Gender and Development 239
  • Index 245
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