Microfinance and Women's Empowerment

This project aims to address challenging questions such as what is meant by women’s empowerment, how should it be pursued and on whose terms. It will investigate how conventional accounting and accountability systems in microfinance organisations reinforce structural barriers disempowering women, and how accounting can traditionally (though questionably) seen as an apolitical, managerial tool, contribute to female empowerment.

Women’s empowerment, a foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, is a key microfinance objective achieved by providing small loans to poor people mainly in developing countries. Notwithstanding highly publicised success stories, microfinance is controversial. Feminist and development scholars claim that promoters of microfinance often gloss over its ‘dark side’, e.g., by putting intense pressure on borrowers to recover loans, leading to new forms of dominance over women (Wright, 2006). Despite a rich academic and policy literature on microfinance, these challenging questions remain.


The team

Dr Farzana Tanima, Lecturer (ECR) at the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, in the Faculty of Business and Law is collecting and analysing data, with particular attention being paid to reflecting on the limits of conventional accounting practices. (Expertise: Accounting and Accountability, Microfinance and NGOs)

Vera Mackie, Prof. of Asian Studies and Director of the Centre for Critical Human Rights Research in the Faculty of Business and Law and is involved in theoretical development, particularly regarding Asia, gender and culture.

Jan Wright, Emeritus Professor in the School of Education, in the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, advises on feminist and post-structuralist theory, dialogic pedagogy, and research methodology, especially using photo-voice and story-telling.

Gordon Waitt, Prof. of Human Geography and Head of School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, in the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities will work on theoretical and methodological development, particularly regarding the gendered and class embodiments implicated within the power hierarchies in microfinances space(s). 

External partners:

Prof. Judy Brown (a pioneer of dialogic accounting theory) from Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) will advise on project management, publication strategies, the research’s progress, and cross-disciplinary theory development.

Prof. Trevor Hopper (an expert on accounting and development) from Sussex University (SU) and VUW will provide general feedback and foster contacts with development studies academics, especially at the SU (which houses IDS). 


This project is working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 1: No Poverty   Goal 2: Zero Hunger   Goal 5: Gender Equality   Goal 10: Reduced inequalities   Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals