Today is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Most see poverty solely as an economic issue to do with income and finances, but in reality poverty is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon.
Poverty encompasses a lack of income, but also a person’s work conditions or unpaid care, exposure to pollution, access to food, healthcare and family planning, exposure to violence and a person’s voice and power within a community or within the household.
All of these factors contribute to a person’s level of poverty and impact on individuals differently depending on age, gender, culture and disability. Poverty is intersectional. A complex issue as this, no doubt requires a holistic solution - a solution that is not just focused on money alone.
Dr Farzana Tanima grew up in Bangladesh and moved to New Zealand in 2006. She completed her Bachelor of Commerce ─ Accounting and Finance in 2009 and later her PhD.
With a personal interest in her home country, Farzana’s PhD research focused on Bangladesh where there is widespread poverty and few opportunities for education, particularly for poorer echelons of society.
Her UOW Global Challenges project is now investigating how conventional accounting and accountability systems in microfinance organisations are actually reinforcing structural barriers and in fact, disempowering women.
Dr Tanima says microfinance is a loan-based system designed to solve complex issues of poverty and empowerment through simplistic financial interventions. She is aiming to develop a more holistic accounting method and is working with feminist activists in Bangladesh alongside an NGO called Integrated Social Development Effort, an organisation providing microfinance loans to women as well as many other projects working toward women’s rights and gender equality.
Dr Tanima spoke to Emma Kucelj from the Global Challenges Program about her research into microfinance as a way of empowering - or as her findings might suggest - disempowering women, and what she plans to do about it.