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Microfinance and development

Focus on women empowerment

Over 3,300 microfinance institutions reached 133 million clients with a microloan in 2006.
93 million of the clients were among the poorest when they took their first loan.
85 percent of these poorest clients were women.
Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2007

Microcredit plays a critical role in empowering women, helps delivernewfound respect, independence, and participation for women in their communities and in their households.
Juan Somavia, ILO Director-General



I - The role of women in the economy
II - Why focus on women?
III - How to facilitate the gender equity by the microfinance?
IV - How to increase and support women's participation in micro-finance activities?



The microfinance addresses the persons who have no access to the classic banking and financial system, by proposing them financial products adapted to their needs and their situation. The microfinance is not the miracle solution for development, but it can allow persons who have a viable economic project to realize or develop it.
To most, microfinance meansproviding very poor families with very small loans to help them engage in productive activities or grow their very small businesses. Many poor people need and use financial services all the time: they save and borrow, invest in home repairs and improvements and meet occasional and domestic expenses such as food and school fees. However, there are some 500 million low income entrepreneurs in the worldand about 5% have access to financial services. Indeed, the financial services available to the poor often have serious limitations in terms of cost, risk and convenience. Over time, microfinance has come to include a broader range of services (credit, savings, insurance, etc.) as the industry has come to realize that the poor and the very poor that lack access to traditional formal financialinstitutions require a variety of financial products.
The Bangladeshi professor of economy Muhammad YUNUS along with the bank he created, the Grameen Bank, enormously contributed to the development of the microfinance and obtained as such the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Even if it exists also in the developed countries, it is in the developing countries that the microfinance is most implanted. Itfinds its foundations mainly in trust and solidarity and although most modern microfinance institutions operate in developing countries, the rate of payment default for loans is surprisingly low - more than 90% of loans are repaid.

I - The role of women in the economy

For decades, the participation of the women in the economic life has been steadily increasing. This provokes deep changes in theorganization of the family, the society and the labor market.
Particularly women have always actively participated in their local economies. In Africa, for example, women produce 80 percent of the food and in Asia 60 percent and in Latin America 40 percent. In many cases, women not only produce the food but market it as well, which gives them a well-developed knowledge of local markets andcustomers.
In developing countries, the women assure a good part of the food production and their profitable economic activities constitute an important source of supplementary income for the family.
The participation of the woman in the economic life gives her a double role, in particular, one of producer of goods and services and the other as a housewife.
For instance, in Africa all tasks relatedto a family's support are the responsibility of women. Due to cultural and traditional aspects, a woman's presence has been a question of survival of her family.
Women, especially poor mothers, must divide their time between work "productive role" and family "reproductive role", and balancing all the demands. Time is valuable for these women, as their livelihoods depend largely on their ability...
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