Empowerment Of Rural Women Through Microfinance Programs Social Work Essay

Poverty is largely a rural phenomenon in many economies and the majority of world's poor are women. The impact of microfinance has been determined as an efficient mechanism in rural poverty alleviation and empowering ladies in growing countries. Sri Lanka is a producing overall economy with a greatly diversified Microfinance system and the Samurdhi Program has the largest Microfinance clientele portion rural areas there. The vast majority of Samurdhi program members are women. This newspaper discusses from what extent the program has been successful in empowering rural women in Sri Lanka. A research study was conducted in Ihala Koswaththa town located in Kurunegala area in North European province of Sri Lanka. The study is examined through three measurements of financial empowerment, improvements in wellness, and cultural and political empowerment. The conclusions display that the access to financial services through the Samurdhi Program contributes to household wellbeing, but the impact on financial empowerment, the program's main target, has been limited. The women of Ihala Koswaththa were positively involved in the Samurdhi Program group activities and community development programs. These activities provided more opportunities for the women to grow their social networks, exchange information, and enhance their personal development skills thus widening their sociable and political consciousness. This content concludes with some advice for rural women's empowerment through Samurdhi Program.

Key Words

microfinance, rural poverty, women's empowerment, Samurdhi Program, Sri Lanka

Introduction

Poverty is basically a rural sensation in many growing economies and women tolerate a disproportionate burden of global poverty, representing 70 percent of the world's poor. Providing affordable financial services to the rural poor has been an important element of inclusive development in most developing countries going back several years (Yaron, Benjamin, & Charitonenko, 1998). In this framework, Microfinance has received attention in the development arena due to its potential contribution to developing functional financial markets in rural areas (Thankom, 2005) through providing capital to poor women through repayment solutions that located them at an advantage.

Microfinance identifies the provision of financial services over a ecological basis to the poor who are generally outside the reach of formal financial marketplaces and often includes cultural intermediation (Churchill & Frankiewicz, 2006; Ledgerwood, 2001). Studies have shown the impact of Microfinance on poverty reduction including reaching the poor, lifting their economic physical condition as well as empowering them. Specifically, Microfinance shows to empower women through providing usage of materials resources and increasing their participation in household decision making (Khandker, 2002; Robinson, 2001; Todd, 2000, Amin et al, 1998; Buvinic, 1983).

As with the rest of the South Asia region, Microfinance in Sri Lanka has a long history dating back to the early years of the 20th century (World Lender, 2006). Microfinance has been given a respected role in administration poverty reduction programs, and in its stringent sense started out to be widely recognized in Sri Lanka as a central tool for alleviating poverty and empowering the indegent with the enactment of the government's Janasaviya Program in 1989. This program was later substituted by the Samurdhi Development Program, which was released in 1995 and remains the largest government effort (Thilakaratna, Wickramasinghe & Kumara, 2005; Fernando, 2009). The Samurdhi Program has extensive coverage in the rural areas and a lot of the program individuals are women.

Some analysts question the impact of microfinance on women's empowerment. They view the effect of women's participation in Microfinance programs as reinforcing patriarchal norms of women's subordination leading to worsening gender interactions and disempowerment of women (Goetz & Gupta, 1996; Montgomery et al, 1996; Rahman, 1999). This content provides some perception into this controversy by evaluating the impact of the Samurdhi Program in empowering rural women in Sri Lanka. The study was conducted in the Ihala Koswaththa community situated in Kurunegala Area in North American Province of Sri Lanka. The analysis in this specific article relies on the female Microfinance clients of Ihala Koswaththa to point and measure the changes that usage of Microfinance services through the Samurdhi Program has taken into their lives.

Microfinance and Women's Empowerment

The concept of empowerment is intricate and there is no agreement on a single definition of empowerment in the literature. However, a lot of the meanings at least agree on the fact that empowerment is a progressive process of change alternatively than a finish product.

According to Keiffer (1984), empowerment is a development process which includes the four periods of entry, improvement, incorporation, and commitment. The entry level is known as an take action of provocation that appears to be motivated by the individual's connection with some event or condition threatening to the personal or family. The growth stage includes the three major aspects of mentoring associations, supportive peer human relationships with a collective organization, and the development of a more critical knowledge of social and politics relations. During the advancement stage these three aspects are considered to make a difference in carrying on the empowerment process. The incorporation level focuses on the introduction of increasing political awareness. In the final stage of commitment the individuals apply the new participatory competence to ever expanding areas of their lives.

Whitmore (1988) recognizes some common fundamental assumptions when defining empowerment. These assumptions are:

individuals understand their own needs much better than anyone else and therefore should have the energy to both define and action after them;

all people possess strengths upon which they can build;

empowerment is a lifelong effort; and

personal knowledge and experience are valid and useful in coping effectively.

While it has already been complicated to identify and conceptualize empowerment in general, determining women's empowerment is even more complicated. Empowering women may specifically refer to their economic situation, but also to increased wellbeing and transformation of power relationships, all depending on the existing conditions and point of view. Furthermore, empowerment may echo itself in women's contribution in interpersonal and politics activities, and therefore preferably empowering other women as well (Majoor, & Manders, 2009).

The following stand highlights different conceptualizations and frameworks for women's empowerment in Microfinance.

Different Conceptualization and Frameworks for Women's Empowerment

Moser's (Gender Needs) Framework (1989)

Emphasis in this framework is laid on gender needs

Women's interest: the diverse, complicated and often conflicting hobbies which women hold as individuals and which can be therefore designed by class, ethnicity, age and gender

Practical gender interest: occurs because of different gender functions and are formulated by (wo)men themselves in response to an instantaneous perceived need

Strategic gender hobbies: arises from a feminist research of women's subordination (and men's dominance) aimed at transforming gender relationships for gender equality

Longwe's (Development) Platform (1989, 1991)

This framework presents empowerment as a linear entity, both as a level that feeds in to the next stage, from

Welfare: with improved women's materials welfare such as food, income, and health care, etc.

Access: on similar footing to factors of production and community services

Conscientisation: on the difference between, with the purpose of transformation of love-making and gender roles

Participation: as equals, (wo)men partake in decision making, coverage operations and administration

Control: with (wo)men evenly taking control over factors of creation and the distribution of benefits there from without dominance

Rowland's (Ability Process) Framework (1997)

The emphasis of Rowland is on ability, i. e

Power from within: specific changes in self-confidence and consciousness

Power to: potential and capacity improvement such as skills, income, and market and job access

Power over: overcoming subjugation at household, community and macro level

Power with: networking, relationship, collaboration and joint action to task and change electric power relations

Chen's (Product) Framework (1997)

Material change: in income (quantity and security); resources (access, control, and possession); basic needs (for wellness); and gaining capacity (availability and capability to have opportunity)

Perceptual change: in self-confidence (of individuality, interest and value); self-confidence (in own capability and capacity); eyesight of future (by in front planning); and awareness and admiration (for individual value and contributions)

Relational change: in decision making (in home and community); bargaining vitality, participation (in local institutions and processes eg. Politics); do it yourself reliance (reduced dependence and increased interdependence as equals) and organizational strenghths (structure and command)

Source: Designed from Mayoux (2002)

Kabeer (2001) talks about why various studies come up with different answers to whether women are empowered or not through contribution in Microfinance programs. She explains these contrasting answers therefore of learning empowerment as a linear process, of technique and the view of women as a homogeneous group. She argues that empowerment should not be researched as a linear process, and instead it ought to be viewed as a multidimensional process of many levels, where triggers and effects are not easily recognized. Thus, it isn't much use to apply quantitative methods in such studies, which confirms empowerment by way of a few indicators that might not be valid in every cases. She further talks about that women aren't a homogeneous group but a group of individuals and empowerment is a subjective experience because women react to various opportunities in different ways, and for that reason, women's empowerment should be analyzed from the women's viewpoint, by hearing their personal experiences and referring to their understanding of reality.

Mayoux (2000) suggests three contrasting paradigms of women's empowerment in Microfinance programs.

Financial home sustainability paradigm: based on programs sustained by women's repayment rates and expecting empowerment to emerge

Poverty alleviation paradigm: where Microfinance is included with community development, concentrating on the poor and home wellbeing is linked to empowerment

Feminist empowerment paradigm: is a sectoral strategy that centers women's empowerment and offers Microfinance as a way to this end

Mayoux (1999) views the result of Microfinance on women's empowerment as a couple of mutually reinforcing 'virtuous spirals' of increasing financial empowerment, improved upon wellbeing, and interpersonal and economic empowerment. She further suggests that although the above mentioned three specific paradigms of women's empowerment in Microfinance result from different theoretical underpinnings they can be believed to lead to similar virtuous spirals of empowerment, both for individual women and at the household, community and macro level (Mayox, 2009).

Microfinance and Rural Women: Process of Empowerment

Financial Self applied Sustainability Paradigm

Poverty Alleviation Paradigm

Feminist Empowerment Paradigm

Source: Mayoux (2002)

Women's economical empowerment is the main concentration of the financial sustainability paradigm. The assumption is that increasing women's access to Microfinance services will alone lead to specific monetary empowerment through permitting women's decisions about personal savings and credit use, enabling women to set up Microenterprises, increasing incomes under their control. It is then assumed that this increased economic empowerment will lead to increased well-being of women and to socio-political empowerment. The financial sustainability and feminist empowerment paradigms emphasis is more on increasing earnings at family members and the use of lending options for ingestion.

Well being improvements are the perfect emphasis of poverty reduction paradigm. The assumption is the fact increasing women's usage of Microfinance will permit women to make increased contributions to household income which together with other interventions to increase home well-being will translate into improved well-being for ladies and enable women to bring about wider changes in gender inequality.

Women's communal and political empowerment is considered to be as a combo of increased economic activity and control over income resulting from usage of Microfinance is likely to improve women's skills, freedom, and access to knowledge and support systems. This leads further to improved status for all those women within the city and wider changes in women's assignments. These changes are anticipated to be reinforced by group development, resulting in wider movements for communal and political change. The financial personal sustainability paradigm and the poverty alleviation paradigm presume that this communal and politics empowerment will occur without specific interventions to change gender relationships at the household, community or macro levels. By contrast, the feminist empowerment paradigm advocates explicit strategies for supporting women's potential to safeguard their specific and collective gender interest at the household, community and macro levels (Mayoux, 2006).

Methodology

The analysis in this review draws on the primary data gathered during fieldwork in Ihala Koswaththa village during September 2007 and 2010. The analysis is qualitative in aspect with data collected through in depth interviews with specific Samurdhi Program beneficiaries, small groupings, Samurdhi field officers, and Grama Niladhari officer, informal interviews, and observations made by visiting beneficiary households, weekly Samurdhi conferences and monthly meetings of Samurdhi societies during the fieldwork. The respondents were picked through purposive sampling. by selecting information rich cases based on theoretical saturation, and the interviews of Samurdhi Microfinance clients were conducted with the wedded middle aged poor women in the community.

For the goal of studying the impact of the Samurdhi Program on women's empowerment in rural areas, this research has divided women's empowerment in to three proportions - economic empowerment, increased wellbeing, and communal and politics empowerment. These sizes derive from Mayoux (year?).

The Samurdhi Program involves three main components; the provision of use grants, the provision of personal savings and credit facilities, and community development programs. But the financial services through the Samurdhi Program are given under the next component, the program often mixes welfare services and financial services as all three components are handled as essential support activities. Because of the fact that all the women who were involved with this research were Samurdhi welfare offer recipients, the impact on these women's empowerment might not exactly only be attributed to the financial services but also to the other element of this program as well.

An Overview of the Samurdhi Program

Samurdhi, this means prosperity in the local language, is a Sri Lankan government sponsored countrywide poverty alleviation program. The program has a big ratio of poor family members as members than it banks. This program was launched by an function of parliament in 1995. The work stipulates that the key functions of the Samurdhi Country wide Program are to enhance the economic and sociable conditions of youth, women and disadvantaged organizations. This program achieves this by:

broadening opportunities for income enhancement and career;

integrating target teams into financial and social development activities;

linking family level monetary activities with community development jobs at village, region, divisional and provincial levels;

mobilizing contribution in the look and management of tasks;

fostering cooperation, promoting cost savings and helping in obtaining credit;

facilitating the delivery of inputs and services of government departments, public companies, local authorities, private sector organizations and nongovernmental organizations to beneficiaries of this program, and to apply this program so developed and other programs of the government poverty alleviation. (Glinskaya, 2000)

Since its inception, Samurdhi has altered from being truly a simple income copy scheme to a far more detailed program encompassing not only welfare, but also bank, personal savings, insurance, job training, infrastructure development and home employment.

Institutional and Organizational Structure of the Samurdhi Program

Source: Modoran & Grashof (2009)

The organizational structure of the Samurdhi program is complicated and highly hierarchical, going from the Grama Niladhari Division level up to the zonal, divisional, district and countrywide levels. This program has three major components: provision of use offer (food stamps), provision of personal savings and credit facilities, and rehabilitation and development of rural infrastructure. Financial services are provided through the Banking Finance Department of the Samurdhi Authority that follows an identical hierarchical framework and become the top office of Samurdhi Standard bank Societies or SBSs which carry out the second element of savings and credit program (Modoran & Grashof, 2009).

Samurdhi Bank or investment company Societies (SBSs) are community centered financing societies. SBSs have a customized village bank model where the customers of the societies are linked to village banking institutions for personal savings and lending options and these banking companies are also owned by the culture members. The model has centralized management with empowerment and the interpersonal development objectives are built in the strategy. SBSs are been able by women and group lending, where only participants or shareholders can acquire, is used. The borrower has to be in a group of five people with the other four participants guaranteeing the loan repayment. Samurdhi funds its lending options only from the savings and stocks in the Samurdhi Lender where savings be a part of the collateral. Individual Samurdhi Banks aren't independent legal entities, but have autonomy within the general guidelines distributed by the federal government Samurdhi Power (Atapattu, 2009; Modoran & Grashof, 2009).

With the emphasize of an enhanced work at rural financing the Samurdhi Program has attempted to mobilize voluntary cost savings among its beneficiaries, build up credit corporations for the indegent and accomplish their access to the formal banking system (Gunatillake, 2000) while providing other credit plus services (Atapattu, 2009). This program serves the major amount of Microfinance clientele in the country having a significant outreach to poor people. However, they are also the largest specialist of welfare services, and for that reason they often mix welfare services and financial services in questionable ways such as forcing poor people receiving social welfare grants to set aside a share of the offer in inflexible personal savings accounts (Duflos et al, 2006).

The Framework: Ihala Koswaththa Village

Ihala Koswaththa is a rural village situated in Bingiriya Secretariat Section in Kurunegala District dropping under the intermediate agro ecological area which includes both dried and damp agro ecological zones in North American Province of Sri Lanka. The area is well offered by microfinance organizations and in 2000 had the most wide-spread coverage by Microfinance institutions among all districts in Sri Lanka (Gant et al, 2002). The area marked on the map below illustrates the positioning of Ihala Koswaththa town, the case study location.

Source: Created by Author

Bingiriya Secretariat Section consists of fifty-two villages in four zones and Ihala Koswaththa is in the Bingiriya area. The village is located about two kilometers from the main way to obtain public transport service, which is not so productive. Though Ihala Koswaththa is considered as a rural village it isn't as isolated as other rural villages in Sri Lanka. However, the villagers still face considerable market and infrastructure constraints in increasing their livelihoods. The next table highlights the basic demographic information of Ihala Koswaththa.

Table 1: Populace of Ihala Koswaththa Village in 2010

Categories

Number

Population and Households

Households

Average Number of People per Household

Total Population

Men

Women

Population Over Era 18

Samurdhi Welfare Offer Recipient Households

Social Security Scheme Beneficiaries

Government Pension Recipients

Government Employees

Defense Power Employees

Small and Medium Enterprises

620

4

2, 502

1, 181

1, 321

1, 637

111

75

23

29

31

50

Source: Created by Publisher predicated on fieldwork

The community has a populace of 2, 502 with 620 people and the average household size of four people, only five families possessed over six people. Ihala Koswaththa is mostly a Sinhala village where there were only two Tamil family members and one Muslim family in the town. Only a few families have been around in Ihala Koswaththa for decades with all of those other villagers being mostly migrants who recently settled in the community. The recent migrants were cultivating community lands even though these were not the legal owners. They later gained ownership of the lands under various land legislation programs such as Swarnabhumi, Janabhumi and the Land Reforms Payment (LRC). However, some of the migrants are still with no proper ownership of the lands that they are cultivating.

Both men and women in the town are predominantly involved with agricultural and day laborer careers. Common agricultural plants include paddy, fruit and vegetables, coconuts, cashews, betel leaves, and dark pepper. There's also activities such as retail boutiques and poultry farms are over the community. Villagers are also involved with seasonal income making activities such as coir drying and straining. There are numerous household issues within the town including domestic issue, single mothers, and alcohol abuse. These issues lead to a larger responsibility being places on women as income generators. Many women from the community work as maids in the centre East and send remittances back. Additionally, the majority of the young unmarried women from poor individuals in the town improve the garment industry.

Samurdhi Program and other Microfinance Interventions in Ihala Koswaththa Village

As found in Stand 1, there are 111 Samurdhi Welfare Grant recipient households on the list of 620 young families in Ihala Koswaththa community. T he main the different parts of of the Samurdhi Program including welfare, personal savings and credit programs, and community development programs are available in Ihala Koswaththa. Under the community development programs there are several training and interpersonal development activities such as women's training programs, casing development assignments, infrastructure development tasks, irrigation and agriculture development activities, a every week market, the children's culture, programs for the elderly, and scholarships for the children of Samurdhi beneficiaries.

The Samurdhi Program in based on participatory development concepts and therefore teams at various levels are created by the program to mobilize and encourage involvement where there are several action teams in each village. Smalle groups of five are structured to consolidate and develop the member's skills and abilities. The Samurdhi Job Drive is another grassroots level corporation comprised of young men and women between 18 to 35 years old. The duty force contributes to providing the required infrastructure to villages under the Community Development Job. Advisory councils comprised of intellectuals, elders, and clergy customers of the region provide assistance and advice to these job forces. There are also divisional and district level Samurdhi committees. Bingiriya Divisional Samurdhi Committee is responsible for the execution of the Samurdhi Program in the Bingiriya Division and therefore in Ihala Koswaththa. T divisional secretary works as the chairman of the committee and all public officers and government minds are participants. The District Samurdhi is comprised of all the mind of government establishments found in the Kurunegala district. Bingiriya Samurdhi Maha Sangam or Basic Union functions as the divisional level apex organization of Samurdhi Program for Ihala Koswaththa. That is set up for 10, 000 Samurdhi beneficiary young families and implemented by an professional committee made up of members selected among the list of presidents of Samurdhi Societies in Bingiriya Section.

In addition to the Samurdhi Program there are several other Microfinance interventions available in the town such as

SEEDS (Sarvodaya Economic Organization Development Services)

Agromart Foundation

Janasurakum Sanwardhana Samupakara Samithiya

Vidhatha Samithiya (Funded through Bingiriya Divisional Secretariat)

Isuru Development Modern culture (Operated by Wayamba Development Bank or Regional Development Loan company)

Villagers in Ihala Koswaththa also have usage of the Microfinance services proposed by other Microfinance providers such as SANASA and Cooperative Rural Banks in local villages. They also rely on other casual credit sources such as money lenders, friends and neighbors, and friends.

The traditional system of Seettu is also used by the women in Ihala Koswaththa. This systems permits the women to save lots of to gain usage of lump amount of cash which otherwise would not be able to acquire.

In 2007, Ihala Koswaththa was preferred by the country Building and Infrastructure Development Ministry as one of the villages to apply the Gama Naguma Community Development and Livelihood Improvement Task. This project aspires to gain Samurdhi recipients island huge. So far the livelihood improvement job has generated a library building and a job to correct the gravel highways and convert them into tar based mostly roads and concrete pathways has been launched in Ihala Koswaththa.

The Samurdhi Program has been mainly concentrating on ladies in Ihala Koswaththa for loans. Women receiving these loans have become self employment. Matching to Samurdhi field officers, feminine recipients of Samurdhi in Ihala Koswaththa have been participating in the Samurdhi marketing exhibitions and other various trade fairs.

Samurdhi Program and Rural Women's Empowerment

The basic theory in Microfinance under the financial personal sustainability paradigm assumes that increasing women's access to financial services empowers them by adding capital in their hands enabling those to increase their income through personal employment and contribute financially with their households and neighborhoods. This financial empowerment is expected to produce increased self-confidence, esteem, and other varieties of empowerment for Microfinance women beneficiaries (Cheston & Kuhn, 2002, Mayoux, 2002).

Most of the ladies interviewed in Ihala Koswaththa town had obtained lending options through the Samurdhi Program by indicating in the loan application that they would spend money on existing income making activities. That is consistent with the key objective of the program, to ensure recipient contribution in the creation process by increasing access to resources for self applied employment. However, based on the interviews with recipents the lending options were often not used for the mentioned purposes. but rather had been used for housing and family welfare activities.

Mayoux (2000) points out thatwomen's empowerment can't be assumed to be an programmed results of Microfinance programs, unless empowerment is an integral area of the planning process. Microfinance enlargement is improbable to make greater than a limited contribution to empowerment. Every one of the women interviewed in Ihala Koswaththa possessed skills such as weaving baskets, mats, and coconut leaves for thatched roofing, sewing, and making sweets. Some women experienced vocational classes such as blossom planting and kindergarten teaching. Although that they had access to funding through the Samurdhi Program and their skills might have been utilized for income generating activities, not all of the women experienced an entrepreneurial spirit or were interested in starting or widening their business. This might are also credited to factors such as market and infrastructure constraints, risk averseness, insufficient enabling household environment, and the original negative perception towards indebtedness in Sri Lankan population.

Some women want to work for local industries such as making incense sticks or match boxes, which are not available in the town. There were hardly any exceptional conditions of sizeable improvement in economic activities through the investment of loans from the Samurdhi Program. This program is not contributing significantly for the financial empowerment of the ladies of Ihala Koswaththa due to the fact that the majority of women didn't invest their lending options in livelihood activities. It is interesting to note that whenever it was inquired about how precisely handful amount of their peers had been able to achieve success in their home occupation with Samurdhi Microfinance services and why the others was not able to do it, most of these women themselves thought that it might have been because of the lack of dedication and risk averseness.

Some women were very keen on starting some small businesses. However, they were unhappy with the loan amount they received from the Samurdhi Program. They claim that the total amount is too small to begin a business. In some cases, they had had the opportunity to partially complete their tasks, such as building small retailers. However, they were unable to find the money for starting their business because they were concerned about taking the risk of another loan given that they had not been able to create any income yet. Repayment is required soon after acquiring the loan, even if they're generating any benefit from the new business.

During the interviews with the Samurdhi field staff, it was highlighted that they evaluate the feasibility of the loan recipients' income creating projects by visiting them before granting the loans. Based on the staff, they monitor the progress of these jobs on regular basis. However, the beneficiaries said that generally, the field staff had not frequented them before granting the lending options and didn't monitor their progress unless they had been given a significantly large amount of cash. It was simple enough for the recipients to get loans by referring to their existing tasks and mislead the officers. When the recipients made their repayments promptly, the field officials were not worried about their activities. .

There were some conditions of non repayment of loans reported by the field staff and the group people. Every one of the women who were interviewed handled the loan repayments promptly with the income using their company existing livelihood activities, with the help of their husbands, or in extreme cases with continuous lending options from friends and neighbors and money lenders. This is even though that they had not invested the loan into income producing activities. Although Samurdhi Program uses group responsibility model for loan repayments, based on the Ihala Koswaththa women the drive behind this is a penalty interest rate. This is contrary to the popular idea that the high repayment rates in Microfinance are attributed to the peer selection, peer monitoring, and peer pressure caused by the joint responsibility (Diagne, 2000). The recipients are do not need to pay the penalty interest rates because they feel they may be a a substantial waste materials of money. Although they had been able to manage their own repayments, some women were still battling greatly from the enhanced pressure from the delinquent associates of the group. In some cases these members cannot to be approached because they left the village.

Pretes (2002) state governments that the borrowers with complications in making payments have been humiliated and stigmatized in their villages through the collective methodology. He argues that pressure to make the loan payments can create communal anxiety, especially in small communities where everyone understands the borrower's situation. According to the field staff there have been some serious instances of non repayment where that they had to take the authorities officials to the recipients' homes and threaten them. Although the program did not take legal actions and involving law enforcement was simply for show to help make the delinquent members frightened and pressured to make the payments, it was a highly effective way to recuperate the loans in difficult circumstances. The Samurdhi Microfinance clients' conception on police in the case of delinquency was further highlighted through the interviews with a receiver group whose task had not been completed. The ladies of Ihala Koswaththa think these were obliged to the federal government through the Samurdhi Program and fear so much the engagement of law enforcement officials in difficult circumstances. This fear may contribute to the pace of repayment among recipients.

Although most women did not spend the loans in income producing activities they were still able to add towards their family's' welfare. The lending options were used for enhancing housing conditions, starting up electricity, acquiring necessary resources for the homeowners, meeting emergency use needs, children's health, and education. A lot of the women's husbands were involved in seasonal jobs such as agriculture, construction, and daily laborer work where the income will depend on the weather conditions. Therefore the loans attained through Samurdhi aided the ladies by bridging the gap in their household income during the absence of their husbands' income. The contribution to the family fund in several ways had enabled these women to improve participation in decision making and increased their power within the family. Realizing that they may have the usage of finance and the ability to cover expenditures during emergencies boosts family welfare and increases women's assurance in managing family financing. This is consistent with the assumption that simple access to finance without direct engagement in income earning activities enhances women's relative position in family members. Contrary to the empirical proof by Goetz and Sen, Gupta (1996) asserts that the majority of women do not control the loans they recceived from Microfinance establishments. Within the Ihala Koswaththa research a lot of the women had appreciable control over their loan utilization and somewhat incredibly they were backed by their male lovers in loan repayments oftentimes.

In order to make it much easier to interact, the Samurdhi Program promotes women to form the organizations with others whom they curently have some established relationship and mutual understanding. Somewhat this only replicates the women's existing sites in the community. However, the program had still added in accumulating sociable capital by extending women's networks in different ways. The small groups (five members) are required to meet weekly. The forming of these groups has strengthened the human relationships between the associates where so that mutual support was available through the difficultieszAdditionally the groupings attend regular divisional Samurdhi Modern culture meetings each month where program related issues are talked about. These meeting allow the women to help expand extend their systems and show information. Although these were given the ability it was noticed through the meetings that there was not significant communication or connections among the teams and only few women lifted their voices about the conditions that they face. This program recipients are also necessary to take part collectively in Samurdhi community development activities, , these activities still encourage rural women's ability to move by giving more opportunities.

Microfinance is also a means to develop women's leadership. In the context of Samurdhi Program in Ihala Koswaththa village, monthly meetings give a valuable opportunity for the women to improve their leadership skills and increase their words on issues. Women performed all the management jobs such as chairperson, secretary, and treasury. However, only a small number of women are benefit from these meetings. A lot of the women appeared as though they were pressured to be there and weren't following the discussions attentively. There have been many conversations and argumentations happening at the meeting among the staff and the beneficiaries, the most women were just listeners. How women reap the benefits of these meetings is associated with the personal traits and their existing status in the community.

The findings of the research corroborates the ideas of Maclsaac (1997) who recommended that a scarcity of time excludes the poor from participating in Microfinance Programs anticipated to the chance cost of regular meetings and other program demands. Time demands have a tendency to be a strong barrier for the poorest women as they often times have the heaviest workload. Some women in Ihala Koswaththa were very unsatisfied with the necessity of attending every week and every month meetings. This was anticipated to various factors such as cost in conditions of the time, resources and liberty. The monthly Samurdhi Population were a particular burden on a lot of women as that they had difficulties in merging these meetings using their existing economical activities and household responsibilities. In addition to these factors, even among the poor there will vary social strata and the most unprivileged women had found it uncomfortable and further disempowering to be a part of activities where their voices were neglected. This phenomena was outlined during the interviews and seen during the every month meetings. The women of least social standing were not properly respected and were treated like welfare recipients, not as valuable Microfinance clients. It had been further reported that although the majority of Samurdhi field officers were female, the women experienced male dominance while coping with the male staff and people.

The Samurdhi community infrastructure development activities marketed women's participation in the community as an important aspect in building long lasting positive change. Some women were very keen on these tasks and savored taking obligations and making efforts towards community development. However, many women believe that these activities used a massive amount of their time and labor. These were displeased with the fact that although the complete community is benefits from the projects only the Samurdhi recipients needed to participate without the commitment from all of those other community. t was visible that the women participated in these activities out of obligation. Although the city projects added to the women's empowerment straight and indirectly, it was reported these activities experienced lead to issue in the neighborhoods and created additional problems for the ladies.

Samurdhi provides several other Microfinance products including intake loans, personal savings, and insurance along with the credit plus services. However, apart from the compulsory cost savings the other products weren't well promoted among the women in Ihala Koswaththa. Stand 1 shows how Samurdhi Program's Microfinance services have contributed towards women's empowerment in terms of monetary empowerment, home wellbeing, and communal and politics empowerment in Ihala Koswaththa Village.

Table 1: The Impact of Samurdhi Program Microfinance Services on Women's Empowerment in Ihala Koswaththa Village

Positive Impacts

Negative Impacts

Economic empowerment

Improved household decision making power

Improved self-assurance in managing home money through loan access

Increased control over income through personal savings services

Cost of taking part in terms of existing economic activities

Increased debts liability

Social pressure to make payments

Household wellbeing

Increased ability to acquire household assets

Increased stableness during emergencies and absences of income

Increased ability to invest in children's health insurance and education needs

Support from group users during difficulties

Increased in women's relative work burden

Restricted flexibility and decreased time for family

Social and Politics Empowerment

Enhanced contribution in community

More opportunities to broaden community and public networks

Increased understanding f sociable and politics issues

Decreased time for other public and politics activities

Socially disenfranchised women don't have voice

Conflicts in community

Accentuates difference between rich and poor

Source: Author

Conclusion and Recommendations

This article analyzes the impact of the Samurdhi Program in fostering the empowerment of poor rural women in Sri Lanka in Ihala Koswaththa. The analysis highlights both positive and negative impacts of the program on empowering ladies in Ihala Koswaththa. In conditions of economic empowerment, income from the livelihood did not improve because of the diversion of loans for other purposes. However, the study findings shows that access to Microfinance services through the Samurdhi Program increased the women's position at the household and community level. Furthermore, the dominant benefit of the Samurdhi Program for the women of Ihala Koswaththa is the region of household wellbeing. The Samurdhi Program most favorably benefitted the better off women included int the program. These women gained empowerment at both the home and community level, whereas the most vulnerable women had been further disempowered in some circumstances.

This research shows the limitations of microcredit made to support income generating. In order to be more effective, the Samurdhi Program must foster rural women's self-confidence in investing in livelihood activities through impressive and appropriate means of reaching them. In addition the enterprise loans should only be approved for practical economical activities and the effective monitoring of credit disbursement and usage should be highly made certain for economical empowerment of the rural women. Most women are provided with smaller lending options at the beginning and then the current practice of inserting high emphasize of monitoring only bigger loans should be changed to meet the objectives of the program and to help these women to obtain larger lending options through the success of their monetary activities.

Limited access to information, limited market gain access to, and poor infrastructure lead poor rural women to choose low value activities with poor growth leads. Thus, to foster economical empowerment it's important to supplement lending options with financial literacy and non financial interventions to encourage rural women to become mixed up in most promising self work activities. Including personal development programs in addition to financial services would also be useful to promote positive thinking and also to change the conception of self job. The Program may possibly also promote local business to increase occupations. Another main complaint was the small levels of the. Therefore, increasing the loan size properly would benefit women in widening their livelihood activities. Providing a protracted grace period before the first loan repayment would further assist the women in boosting their economical activities.

This study identified that although there's a range of Microfinance products and services offered through the Samurdhi Program these services weren't well promoted, aside from the credit and compulsory personal savings components of this program. Every one of the products and services provided by the Samurdhi Program should be advertised. The program also need to be more progressive in interacting with the diverse financial needs of rural women.

The group formation, meetings and community infrastructure development activities have given opportunities for the women to get intangible possessions through sociable networking and knowledge posting. These activities have helped less mobile rural women to become more integrated into the city, bolster their support system, gain more confidence, and change the perception into the world by getting more recognition on wider interpersonal issues. However, these activities have also created increased pressure on the women. The requirements of these compulsory activities should have some flexibility with respect to the capacity of the average person. This program should ensure that rural women are treated with more esteem and dignity, as well as determining them as valuable clients somewhat than considering them only beneficiaries.

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