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Succeeded where others have failed? Has Rojiroti’s model of microfinance led to a reduction in domestic violence?

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Abstract

Rojiroti is a small organization delivering microfinance to the poorest women in Bihar. This article explores Rojiroti's panel data which shows a decline in domestic violence among its members, acknowledging that this result contradicts much of the existing literature on this topic. Detailed analysis of relevant literature and extensive fieldwork involving qualitative interviews with 16 Rojiroti Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in July 2015 inform the outcomes of this inquiry. While evidence from other microfinance organizations is less positive, there are indications that the specific approach to microfinance initiatives by Rojiroti in this context is successful in reducing rates of domestic violence.

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... Through SHGs, women have the potential to develop more durable social networks which might lead to a reduction in domestic violence. Gordon (2016) found that SHGs enabled women to access social resources such as educational information to challenge social norms and ability to discuss domestic violence as a group, and in some cases address violence with collective action. ...
... Rojiroti's requirement of women to detail how they would repay their loans necessitate family discussion about finances, leading to a potential change in women's role in household decisionmaking. . Rojiroti's focus on regular group meetings, led by women themselves, may provide strong networks of support (Gordon 2016). Rojiroti's method of involving all in the village regarding group set-up may also ensure that husbands are more likely to support women's membership. ...
... Alongside the evidence of a reduction in domestic violence, this is consistent with the view that where microfinance leads to access to resources, there can be a powerful mitigating effect on domestic violence, particularly violence that stems from poverty (Moodie 2008). Indeed, women who are members of Rojiroti mentioned how violence had reduced due to a reduction in financial worries, because of the ability to receive loans (Gordon 2016). The introduction of economic capital and potentially accompanying assets can therefore be a primary reason why microfinance may have led to a reduction in domestic violence, in line with evidence that domestic violence may decrease when there is more severe economic need (Beneria and Roldan 1987). ...
Article
The impact of microfinance on domestic violence has been widely discussed, but there is still no consensus due to the fact that context and programme implementation mechanisms have a large effect on outcomes. An innovative grassroots microfinance organisation in India, Rojiroti, has a number of unique features which make a positive impact on domestic violence more likely. Using a quasi-experimental design with panel data and matched control sites, this article reports on a study that found a significant reduction in levels of domestic violence among women members of Rojiroti, alongside a significant increase in asset ownership and knowledge of household finances.
... Emergency loans are easily accessible and processed quickly with minimum paperwork requirements (Gordon, 2016). These features have been implemented due to the gender and caste of participants, recognising their existing financial constraints, and thus providing feasible loans. ...
... Given the proven impact of Rojiroti to increase women's assets, and also women's potential to access sustained income generating activities, there may be reduced vulnerability to income shocks as a result. For example, in the case of Rojiroti, during the non-harvest season, women take loans for consumption purposes or can utilise income from new productive assets (Gordon, 2016). Rojiroti's flexible repayment strategy and option to take multiple loans may enable women to navigate and protect their family against income shocks. ...
... During previous research, many women mentioned this networking as important to them in times of crisis. For example, women mentioned support from other SHG members in deciding where to take medical treatment in an emergency and in supporting them in situations of inequality in their families (Gordon, 2016). ...
Thesis
Microfinance, the idea of giving small loans to those without access to formalised financial services, has been a widely adopted intervention since the 1990s. However, debates about the impacts of microfinance are ongoing and arguably intensifying. Critics argue that many of the mechanisms through which microfinance is delivered can lead to higher levels of poverty. Additionally, the fact that microfinance predominantly focuses on women has led to widespread feminist critiques that it does not consider wider structural constraints facing women. Increasingly, there have been calls to better understand the mechanisms through which microfinance organisations operate. This research explores Rojiroti microfinance, a grassroots and community-led organisation, designed by and for its members to support women from the most socio-economically marginalised groups in rural Bihar, India. This has led to a number of distinct operating mechanisms which differentiate it from the microfinance organisations subject to mainstream critique. This study seeks to assess whether Rojiroti’s distinct mechanisms have enabled positive changes for its women members. It aims to do this through looking at girls’ education, recognising that changes in girls’ education could be indicative of more widespread and longer-term shifts in gender equality. Theories of empowerment, with a foundation in the capability approach, are used to conceptualise pathways through which change may have occurred for Rojiroti members in relation to being able to support girls’ education. These pathways are firstly that, through membership, women may experience a change in their financial, social and cultural resources. They may then experience shifts in individual and collective agency which could influence their ability to support girls’ education. Secondary panel data were analysed and found that Rojiroti members experienced significant positive impacts on their spending on children’s education. Choosing to spend on education indicates a shift in women’s financial position, as well as a commitment to support children’s education. Subsequently, to understand in more depth the impact on girls’ education in particular, whether Rojiroti’s operating mechanisms had facilitated this change, and the pathways through which this change had occurred, twenty one-on-one interviews with Rojiroti staff and thirty focus group discussions with Rojiroti self-help group members were conducted. Findings demonstrate that Rojiroti’s low interest rates and flexible repayment mechanisms had particularly supported women to build up financial resources, which they then used to support girls’ education. Rojiroti’s focus on group cohesion and solidarity, and the fact it was predominantly women-led, led to increased social resources, and individual and collective agency that contributed to women’s increased ability to take decisions to support girls’ education and to challenge inequality in their homes and communities. Significant for those involved in microfinance, it appears that Rojiroti’s deep understanding of the context, and flexibility to adapt to the needs of its members, enabled positive change. In terms of longer-term gender transformative changes, the study cautions against interventions that focus purely on building up women’s financial resources. Social resources were essential for building skills which enabled women to advocate for, and challenge barriers inhibiting, girls’ education.
... Rojiroti is a grassroots microfinance organisation, operating in rural Bihar, whose membership is predominantly women from scheduled or disadvantaged castes and tribes (Gordon 2016). Although microfinance has been strongly critiqued as a povertyalleviation approach, and for its ability to support the improvement of women's lives (Bateman and Chang 2012;Wilson 2015), Rojiroti operates in distinct ways. ...
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The transformational power of education is considered crucial to improving life outcomes. However, girls in rural India often still face barriers to learning. The literature notes economic and socio-cultural barriers to girls’ education which both mediate, and are affected by, parental aspirations. This research explored the aspirations for girls’ education of members of a grassroots microfinance organisation in rural Bihar through one-on-one interviews and focus group discussions. Economic factors, such as increased awareness of employment opportunities and changing financial situations enabled mothers to act on their pre-existing aspirations for daughters’ education, supported by shifts in the requirement of higher levels of education for marriage. Mothers also emphasised the potential for education to enhance their daughters’ wellbeing as influencing their aspirations. Therefore, policymakers must prioritise education that has a socially transformative agenda, as well as providing support to tackle economic and socio-cultural barriers to girls’ education.
... More recent studies have also showed that lending to women may lead to their improved agency and result in their empowerment due to the improvement of their role in the household economy (Garikipati, 2008;Khan et al., 2013;Qazi et al., 2013;Al-Mamun et al., 2014;Islam et al., 2014;Adnan et al., 2015;Chliova et al., 2015;Pal and Dutta, 2015;Kulb et al., 2016;Porter, 2016;Bahta et al., 2017). In addition, Schuler et al. (1996), Karim and Law (2016), Gordon (2016), and Panda (2016) all found that group-based microcredit programmes had reduced domestic violence against female group members. ...
Thesis
The overall aim of this research is to evaluate how a UN funded group-based microcredit programme was implemented (considering Javanese culture and Islamic teaching) and what impact it had on achieving gender equality in rural Indonesia. The research seeks to form a comprehensive assessment and understanding the interconnection of gender, Javanese culture and Islamic teaching in the functioning of local savings and loan groups (Affinity Groups/ AGs) established as part of an IFAD funded project in Eastern Java (Participatory Integrated Development in Rainfed Areas/ PIDRA). This research demonstrated that AG can be analysed by hybrid organisation theory, due to its combination of multiple logics, value systems, stakeholders, and goals/missions. As a case study, the research applies a combination of qualitative research methods: document analysis (review of documents), focus group discussion (FGD), and semi-structured interviews. The fieldwork was conducted over three months (April-June 2012). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 38 participants; 8 PIDRA team representatives and 30 AG members. The study shows that poverty indicators, socio-cultural and religious aspects both influenced the initial process of AG formation i.e. selection of villages and identification of intended beneficiaries of AG members. Strengthening institutional capacity through the formation of AGs, a Federation of AGs, and a Rural Development Institution (RDI) helped the AG members to be involved in various aspects of decision-making in rural development. The findings also confirm that Javanese culture and Islamic teaching influenced AG members’ views and behaviours with respect to gender and microcredit activities; and these aspects have had an impact on the continuity of microcredit programmes. However, although the microcredit programme delivered by the AG had a transformative impact on women’s ability to earn incomes benefits and gender awareness, they tended to increase their workload. Keywords: Microcredit, Affinity Group, Hybrid Organisation, Gender, Javanese Culture, Islamic Religion
... It is clear then that many microfinance organisations do not support women's empowerment. However, previous research with a grassroots microfinance organisation in rural India, Rojiroti, found that it operated differently compared to the microfinance organisations subject to mainstream critique (Gordon, 2016). Whilst microfinance organisations predominantly provide services to women, previous studies have noted a dearth of women in leadership roles. ...
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Many have argued that supporting women’s leadership is an important pathway to women’s empowerment. However, there is still a need for better understanding of how women become leaders, particularly at the grassroots level, and how they support social change. This article explores women’s leadership as part of a grassroots microfinance organisation, Rojiroti. Through interviews and focus group discussions, it finds that Rojiroti’s women leaders were motivated to become leaders to create better opportunities for their families and communities, and that they lead in line with frameworks of transformative leadership by supporting relationship building, by facilitating and guiding knowledge transfer and by providing space for reflection and skills for action (Wakefield, 2017). In particular, their situated knowledge was essential for inspiring shared vision for challenging unequal power relations. Overall, better understanding their leadership, that particularly nurtures relationships and collaboration, due to their position as being from the social groups they sought to support, is critical to the current challenges facing interventions and activism that seek to promote women’s empowerment and contribute to social change.
... Secondly, although there is a wide recognition and understanding of the potential benefits of microfinance participation in India, there is little evidence on how to address spousal violence with regard to credit program participation. A few studies based on small scale sample tries to understand its association (Gordon, 2016;Leach & Sitaram, 2002), but the results cannot be generalized for the entire country. Thirdly, the data from the recent National Family Health Survey (henceforth, NFHS) IV reveals that one out of every three ever-married Indian women experience physical, sexual, or emotional violence (IIPS and ICF, 2017). ...
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evelopment effectiveness through gender mainstreaming signifies performance in bringing about change in increased productivity, improved social development and enhanced gender equality in rights, resources and political voice that generally disadvantage women. The costs of gender inequality are particularly noted in hindering development in terms of more poverty, increased deprivation and chronic failure in satisfaction of social needs (nutrition, health, education, dignity, social prestige, self-esteem). Thus, development effectiveness cannot be measured exclusively in terms of reduction of income poverty, or in the achievement of project objectives. One must also focus on the impact of development assistance on processes of inclusion, enhancing capabilities and gender/social equalities. To assess the effectiveness of a given development intervention, two questions need to be answered in tandem. What contribution does development policy make to bring about change in gendered conditions for achieving reduction of poverty and women's inequality? What policies or programmes have been effective in closing the gap between development rhetoric and the reality of women's day to day existence; and in setting new standards for gender-responsibility of public accountability system, including that of the civil society? Since the mid-1990s, there has been a major research effort into development effectiveness by academics around the world. A 1997 desk review of the World Bank projects found that projects that took gender relations into account in their design and implementation tended to achieve their objectives more often than projects that ignored gender issues (Murphy 1997). This was further supported by a more recent analysis done by the Bank, based on desk reviews and field studies. This analysis concluded that projects tended to have better on-the-ground impact when gender issues had been analysed at the country and project levels and gender-differentiated needs or impacts were recognised in project and programme design (World Bank 2001). In India, for example, "The simulation results suggest that the two interven- tions most strongly associated with infant mortality reduction in the poor states are increased schooling of mothers and additional public spending on health and family welfare" (Deolalikar 2005:3). That failures to recognise…gender-differentiated constraints when designing policies can compromise the effectiveness of those policies, from both equity and efficiency perspectives" (World Bank 2001:14). If development projects, and project officials, do not take the lead in initiating measures to reduce present inequalities in gender relations, such changes are not likely to come about on their own, through so-called demand-driven measures, given that the men who dominate the social sphere would inevitably dominate the formulation of demand-driven measures. Project design and implementation by project officials are necessary to ensure that the much-needed social changes, changes in gender relations, are made a part of poverty reduction process.
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"At first, my family members did not count me worthy to be called when there was a problem or decision-making, but now through SAT I am numbered among human beings." --Margaret Asare, a microfinance client of Sinapi Aba Trust in Ghana Microfinance is now a proven strategy for reaching poor women. The Microcredit Summit Campaign reports that 14.2 million of the world's poorest women now have access to financial services—accounting for nearly 74% of the 19.3 million poorest served by microfinance. Yet women in Eastern Europe and the Near East lag far behind their sisters in the rest of the world, with 54% and 27% of services1 respectively. And throughout the industry there is still a schism between larger individual loans, which are more often for men, and smaller group loans, which predominately serve women. Further, microfinance institutions often lack women in governance, management and operations, meaning that women's voices and perspectives are not always incorporated into the design and implementation of products and services. There are good reasons to target women. Gender equality turns out to be good for everybody. The World Bank reports that societies that discriminate on the basis of gender have greater poverty, slower economic growth, weaker governance, and a lower standard of living.2 Women are poorer and more disadvantaged than men. UNDP's oft- quoted 1995 Human Development Report found that 70% of the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1 a day are women. Studies in Latin America, and elsewhere, show that men typically contribute 50 to 68% of their salaries to the collective household fund, whereas women "tend to keep nothing back for themselves."3 Because "women contribute decisively to the well-being of their families,"4 investing in women brings about a multiplier effect. Finally, every microfinance institution has stories of women who not only are better off economically as a result of access to financial services, but who are empowered as well. Simply getting cash into the hands of women (by way of working capital) can lead to increased self-esteem, control and empowerment by helping them achieve greater economic independence and security, which in turn gives them the chance to contribute financially to their households and communities. Yet while cash-in-hand can have these impacts, it doesn't always. Empowerment is about change, choice and power. It is a process of change by which individuals and groups with little or no power gain the power and ability to make choices that affect their lives. The ability of a woman to transform her life through access to financial services
Article
This study using access to education and health as the indicators of gender inequality examines gender inequality and state level openness in the different states of India. Further, the study's findings show that at the sub-national level in India higher per capita income is accompanied with lower gender inequality. However, in some high income states gender inequality is also very high. High gender inequality was also observed in the states which score high in the openness index.
Article
This article examines the implications of women's access to income-earning opportunities for their position in intra-household relationships. For those who believe that such relationships are egalitarian, this issue may not appear relevant; for others, however, there is a divergence of views between those who offer an optimistic analysis of the effects of earning power for women's status, and those who provide a more pessimistic prognosis. In exploring this issue, the article makes use of first-hand accounts of women workers in the recently emergent export-oriented garment factories in Bangladesh, both in order to evaluate the ‘fit’ with theoretical insights of intra-household relations from the social science literature, and to assess what the ‘everyday lived realities’ described by the women workers tell us about the workings of power within family-based households in urban Bangladesh.
Article
This paper addresses the emergence of microcredit programmes as a preferred strat-egy for poverty alleviation world-wide. Taking the paradigmatic case of Nepal, it engages a genealogical approach to trace how Nepalese planners' enduring concerns about rural development intersect in surprising (and gendered) ways with donors' present focus on deepening nancial markets. In the resulting microcredit model, the onus for rural lending is devolved from commercial banks to subsidized 'rural development banks' and women borrowers become the target of an aggressive 'self-help' approach to development. As a governmental strategy, microcredit thus consti-tutes social citizenship and women's needs in a manner consistent with neoliberalism. Drawing on ethnographic research, the paper also considers the progressive and regressive possibilities in the articulation of such constructed subjectivities with local cultural ideologies and social processes. Such an investigation can in turn provide a foundation for articulating a more normative agenda for development studies – grounded in the perspectives of those in subordinate social locations.
Article
summary Micro-finance programmes for women are currently promoted not only as a strategy for poverty alleviation but also for women's empowerment. However, the complexity of empowerment itself and interlinkages with policy make conventional research methodologies extremely lengthy and costly. This article proposes frameworks and participatory methodologies for integrating empowerment concerns into ongoing programme learning. These would themselves be a contribution to empowerment. First, programme staff would be given a more representative and reliable exposure to the priorities and problems of programme participants. Second, it would develop networks and a forum for discussion between women themselves on issues relevant to their interests and integrated into programme decision-making. The quantitative and qualitative information obtained by programmes and clients on an ongoing basis would be directly and immediately available to inform policy decisions and enable independent outsider research to be cost-effectively targeted to issues where it is really needed for policy development.
Article
There is a growing acknowledgement that micro-credit programs have potential for equitable and sustainable development. However, my anthropological research on the micro-credit program of the Grameen Bank shows that bank workers are expected to increase disbursement of loans among their members and press for high recovery rates to earn profit necessary for economic viability of the institution. To ensure timely repayment in the loan centers bank workers and borrowing peers inflict an intense pressure on women clients. In the study community many borrowers maintain their regular payment schedules through a process of loan recycling that considerably increases the debt-liability on the individual households, increases tension and frustration among household members, produces new forms of dominance over women and increases violence in society.
Article
This paper explores the reasons why recent evaluations of the empowerment potential of credit programs for rural women in Bangladesh have arrived at very conflicting conclusions. Although these evaluations use somewhat different methodologies and have been carried out at different points of time, the paper argues that the primary source of the conflict lies in the very different understandings of intrahousehold power relations which these studies draw on. It supports this argument through a comparative analysis with the findings of a participatory evaluation of a rather different credit program in Bangladesh in which the impact of loans was evaluated by women loanees themselves.
Article
Recognition of the important role that women play in Third World development has not necessarily been translated into planning practice. This paper describes the development of gender planning, which in identifying that women and men play different roles in Third World society and therefore often have different needs, provides both the conceptual framework and the methodological tools for incorporating gender into planning. These relate to the categorization of the triple role of women and the distinction between practical and strategic gender needs. The paper illustrates the capacity of different interventions to meet gender needs, and provides a critique of different policy approaches to “women in development” from a gender planning perspective.
Article
This study was carried out between July 1998 and November 2000 to study the dynamics of dowry deaths in South Delhi. A total of 117 cases were studied. Illiterate, issueless Hindu housewives of lower socio-economic class were the worst affected. The most vulnerable age group was 21-25 years. The most common cause of death was burns followed by poisoning. 59% of the total deaths were accidental in nature followed by 30% suicidal deaths. About 23% cases had alleged history of dowry demands, harassment, torture and subsequent death. 57% of the victims died in initial three years of marriage, indicating possible maladjustment and strenuous relationship between husband and wife or that with in-laws. The associations between various social and economic forces have given shape to the phenomenon of dowry demands in India leading to dowry deaths of young girls. In this paper all such variables are discussed.
Article
"UMI:3090040." Thesis (Ph. D.)--Brandeis University, 2003. Includes bibliographical references (p. 251-257). Photocopy. s
Article
Microfinance has been regarded as one of the most viable tools for poverty alleviation and socioeconomic development with developing countries in recent years. Many of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Bangladesh, currently working as Microfinance Organizations (MFOs) - including the Grameen Bank, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) and PROSHIKA-have established innovative microfinance programs that have provided financial services to millions of poor people in the country. Although the main focus of all microfinance programs is income-generation for the poor, one of the important outcomes is believed to be the creation of social capital. In this qualitative study, we investigated the present scenario of social capital formation mainly through the microfinance program of BRAC in a rural village of Bangladesh. The study results suggest that a microfinance program does not essentially create effective social capital unless enforced by the microfinance organization. Social capital formation through microfinance programs largely depends on well-designed social capital building strategy of the respective microfinance organization and its actual implementation in the grass-root level.
Article
This study assessed 87 maritally violent men (MV), 42 maritally nonviolent, maritally discordant men (NVD), and 48 maritally nonviolent, maritally satisfied men (NVS) on the California Psychological Inventory (CPI), a test of the normal personality. A MANOVA and subsequent range tests indicated that the NVD and NVS groups had significantly higher scores than the MV group on 10 of the 18 subscales: Responsibility, Socialization, Self-Control, Tolerance, Achievement via Conformance, Achievement via Independence, Good Impression, Intellectual Efficiency, and Psychological Mindedness. A discriminant analysis contrasting the MV group with the combined NVD and NVS group correctly classified 68% of the subjects and accounted for 20.94% of the variance between groups. Along with previous findings, the data indicated that maritally violent males exhibit different personality characteristics than maritally nonviolent men in three general areas: intimacy, impulsivity, and problem-solving skills. Many of these problem areas were significantly correlated with childhood violence experiences.
Article
A growing number of NGOs in rural Bangladesh are reaching out to a vast multitude of poor women with collateral-free credit programs either by integrating them with their preexisting social welfare programs or by adding the welfare programs to the credit programs, thus providing a comprehensive range of services including consciousness-raising, functional literacy training, and group formation. It has been argued that the provision of such an integrated range of socioeconomic services not only reinforces the social and economic well-being or the poor women, but also empowers them. The data of the present study suggest that women's membership in NGO-promoted credit programs, their residence in an NGO program area and in nonsouthern and noneastern regions, their higher socioeconomic status, and their age tend to be positively associated with women's empowerment. Our indices of women's emplowerment are found to be significantly and positively associated with NGO credit membership and residence in an NGO program area. This significant positive relationship of women's emplowerment indices with NGO credit membership may stem from the poor women's participation in an NGO credit program.
Article
Using data from a recent ethnographic study in rural Bangladesh to explore relationships between men's violence against women in the home, women's economic and social dependence on men, and microcredit programmes, this paper suggests that microcredit programmes have a varied effect on men's violence against women. They can reduce women's vulnerability to men's violence by strengthening their economic roles and making their lives more public. When women challenge gender norms, however, they sometimes provoke violence in their husbands. Male violence against women is a serious, widespread, and often ignored problem world-wide. By putting resources into women's hands, credit programmes may indirectly exacerbate such violence; but they may also provide a context for intervention.
Article
Special credit institutions in Bangladesh have dramatically increased the credit available to poor rural women since the mid-1980s. Though this is intended to contribute to women's empowerment, few evaluations of loan use investigate whether women actually control this credit. Most often, women's continued high demand for loans and their manifestly high propensity to repay is taken as a proxy indicator for control and empowerment. This paper challenges this assumption by exploring variations in the degree to which women borrowers control their loans directly; reporting on recent research which finds a significant proportion of women's loans to be controlled by male relatives. The paper finds that a preoccupation with “credit performance” — measured primarily in terms of high repayment rates — affects the incentives of fieldworkers dispensing and recovering credit, in ways which may outweigh concerns to ensure that women develop meaningful control over their investment activities.
empowering women via microfinance in fragile states
  • B De Aghion
  • B N Roome
de aghion, b. and Roome, b.n. (2008) 'empowering women via microfinance in fragile states', Working paper 08/001, brussels: centre emile bernheim.
Women Workers in the Unorganised Sector in Calcutta, hyderabad: Sangam books
  • N Banerjee
banerjee, n. (1985) Women Workers in the Unorganised Sector in Calcutta, hyderabad: Sangam books.