Rouf, Kazi Abdur*
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada (email@example.com)
The purpose of the study is to: examine the degree to which women borrowers of the Grameen Bank (GB) are being empowered to participate in familial decision-making around the management of income and expenditures such as food, children’s education, dowry, and teenage marriages; and to examine women borrowers’ engagement in community activities such as the degree of freedom women are granted to visit public places like schools, local councils, banks, and markets. In particular, the study explores the role of the GB in women’s empowerment through the Sixteen Decisions; an educational program designed to empower women in the family and community. A mixed-methods research design was used with 61 GB women borrowers as participants selected through purposive sampling. The data suggest that the participants have assumed leadership roles within their families. More than 80% of the participants led decision making within their family; more than 90% supported their children’s education financially; 91% reported that they worked together with family members to manage day-to-day expenses; 80% reported that they manage their family incomes; 98% reported they do not like dowry marriages and teenage marriages; while 33% view male-dominant values as a hindrance to women’s development. The findings indicated that 98% of GB women borrower participants are engaging in community organizations and 94% do not face problems with this engagement. Furthermore, the study finds the GB program has had a positive impact upon the borrowers’ relations in the family and community. In spite of these developments, one-fifth of GB women borrowers’ husbands control their wives’ loan money, an indication of the strength of patriarchy in Bangladesh. Although GB’s Sixteen Decisions have included economic issues and other social issues, none directly discusses gender inequality, which the study findings suggest is important. Hence a revision of the Sixteen Decisions is suggested.
Keywords: Grameen Bank; GB sixteen decisions; community organizations; community development; dowry marriages; patriarchy; women empowerment