Women's Empowerment: power to act or power over other women? Lessons from Indian microfinance

Abstract : In the microfinance industry 'empowerment' is often described as a means to facilitate female emancipation from male domination. This paper draws on women's testimonies to highlight the fundamental importance of women's relationships with one another in this process,. Women continuously negotiate a position between their kinship groups and neighbours, in a context where dependence on men is considered natural. Micro-credit uses are shaped by, and embody, relationships between women, including power relationships. We recommend revising current understandings of female agency to take into account the complex relationship between agency and power, and challenge the conventional polarity of power as domination (power over) and power as agency (power to). In many cases, even where there is solidarity between women, women having agency requires or implies domination over other women.
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Isabelle Guérin, Santosh Kumar, Isabelle Agier. Women's Empowerment: power to act or power over other women? Lessons from Indian microfinance. Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis (Routledge), 2013, 41 (1), pp.S76-S94. ⟨ird-01418890⟩

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