Microfinance programmes : working towards empowering women living in a rural context?
Dhlamini, Sinelisiwe Lebohang.
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This study aimed to investigate the experiences of women living in a rural area who participate in a microfinance programme called SaveAct. Microfinance programmes have been established to assist people, financially, living on a low income. Their primary focus is women because of the high level of poverty amongst them. Microfinance programmes seek to promote entrepreneurship in order for people to start income generating activities and to be more self-sufficient. This initiative intends to empower women by making funds available to them, so that these funds can transform into something more sustainable and help them in improving their lives. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 female participants from the rural areas of Richmond and Obonjaneni, KwaZulu-Natal, in South Africa. A thematic analysis showed that women have experienced some change in their lives, as a result of getting access to funds and participating in SaveAct. Some of these changes included increased personal autonomy, self-confidence and business knowledge. These changes suggest that this sample of women has been empowered despite the backdrop of a patriarchal society. Women felt more in control of their lives and had gained some independence in their homes in terms of contributing to household income. Despite these changes more integrated services are still needed so that both genders are equipped with financial information as it affects the household, so that there is more equality in the household economically. More quality financial services are also needed in rural contexts in order for communities to be more knowledgeable about finances and to build businesses that will feed into the economy in the long term.