member households were below the poverty line while a higher number 69 of the

Member households were below the poverty line while a

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member households were below the poverty line while a higher number (69%) of the comparison households was lying below the line. The overall findings showed that among the BRAC members there has been gradual improvements in the indicators such as wealth, revenue earning assets, value of house structures, the level of cash earned, per capita expenditure on food and total household expenditure (Husain, et al., 1998: p xxiii-iv). Empirical studies on microfinance programs of two other large NGOs, viz., Proshika and ASA, produced similar positive impact. The impact assessment of Proshika conducted in 1998-99 found positive results of its programs in terms of increased income, savings, school enrollment rate, reduction in infant mortality and improvement in gender relations (Proshika: 1999). The impact assessment of ASA’s program on its participants also showed positive results indicating an annual growth of 5-7% compared to the control group, increase in food consumption, improvement in health and child education, and higher increase in assets (Bruntrup, et al., 1997). Can Microfinance Eradicate Poverty ? Despite these hard evidences, some observers have raised questions about the efficacy of microfinance in alleviating poverty. Their question is: If microfinance was so good, how come it had not eradicated poverty (Chowdhury: March 2000). It is a fact that poverty still prevails in the rural areas of Bangladesh, and all participants of microfinance programs could not cross the line of poverty. One has to keep in mind that poverty is a complex phenomenon which cannot be tackled by a single hyper-needle intervention. The task demand s a multi-sectoral approach and a comprehensive strategy. Microfinance can surely be a part of the board strategy, but it cannot be the only strategy. There have been undue expectations about microfinance because it has wrongly been presented as a panacea for all economic ills. The fact is that microfinance has met
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a very important need, and it has been able to alleviate poverty only up to a certain level. What is needed now is shifting the overall sectoral strategy to a growth driven approach. To achieve it, the performance of the MFIs has to be enhanced, and innovations for creative management, enterprise development, and savings generation for capitalization have to be a necessary part of action programs. 3.3 Impact on Women’s Empowerment Removing gender inequity and empowering of the women has been a cherished goal of the NGOs and many other development organizations in Bangladesh. Microfinance has definitely created an impact on the women borrowers. A good number of studies have examined the extent to which microfinance has contributed to women’s empowerment. Results of one study suggest that microfinance’s largest impact has been on the set of indicators relating to female control over assets and knowledge of social issues (Zaman, 1999: 1-13). Loans given to women create better effect than those given to men. Another study specifically indicates that “for every 100
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