Goldin Institute grassroots social change

"Social Dispossession" in Microcredit


 

Microcredit advisor Kasia Paprocki published this new research article at Geoforum to advance the notion of "social dispossession", specifically by focusing on her own prior field research in rural Bangladesh. Social dispossession is the author's original and new framework to interrogate the systemic abuses of microcredit borrowers. As more fully defined from the article's abstract: 

[quote]Social dispossession is an optic that extends current theorizing on agrarian dispossession into the realm of social reproduction, by examining the testimonies of microcredit borrowers in rural Bangladesh. In recent years, research on microcredit has highlighted new forms of subject-making employed by microcredit and other NGO entrepreneurship development programs. These developments have received insufficient attention in scholarship on agrarian change, both globally and in specific places. I correct this by arguing that microcredit drives social dispossession through three specific mechanisms: the confiscation of assets necessary to social reproduction (as well as to production); the construction of debt relations within a community which reshape what reproduction can look like; and the re-configuration of women’s social status and subjectivities in relation to their communities.[/quote]

It is also helpful to know how specifically social dispossession is generated by microcredit lending to those recipients studied in rural communities of Bangladesh. For this, Kasia has defined these three mechanisms for identifying social dispossession: 

(i) the confiscation of assets necessary to social reproduction (as well as to production); (ii) the construction of debt relations within a community which reshape what reproduction can look like; and (iii) the re-configuration of women’s social status and subjectivities in relation to their communities.

Kasia in part, drew on her background as Research and Program Manager for the Goldin Institute from 2007 - 2010, in which she was instrumental in designing and leading the Community Based Oral Testimony (CBOT) project in Bangladesh. Kasia is currently a doctoral candidate and professor in the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University.

In our efforts to compile the most relevant and recent research in the sector of microcredit lending, this full journal entry will be added to our online bibliography.

 

 

 

 


Goldin Institute grassroots social change

Ending Gender-Based Violence in Haiti

The Goldin Institute believes in the power of communities coming together to build their own solutions and determine their own futures. Key to our achieving our mission is ensuring that voices and perspectives that are often excluded from the discussion—often women—are heard and included.

From combatting gender-based violence in Haiti to improving microcredit in Bangladesh, women-led, community-based projects are integral to the Goldin Institute's work around the world.

Rape Accountability and Prevention

Institute co-founder Diane Goldin (far right) meeting with partners and associates in Port-au-Prince during the implementation of the RAPP project.The Haiti Rape Accountability and Prevention Project (RAPP) is designed to respond to the epidemic of rapes against poor women and girls in Haiti in the wake of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. The program includes four closely integrated components: legal advocacy, healthcare, organizing, and public advocacy.

RAPP provides individual victims of sexual assault the legal services they need to obtain justice and compensation, while working with allies in Haiti and abroad to transform the social context that underlies the vulnerability of all poor Haitian women to assault. The Project also aims to deter future rape by punishing the perpetrators and forcing a more effective response by law enforcement and the justice system.

Bangladesh: Restoring Recipient Voices to Improve Microcredit

Participants of the CBOT project with their children during our work in Bangladesh.

The current debate about the efficacy of microfinance is marked by the absence of those who have most at stake in the controversy: loan recipients. The Goldin Institute is working to lift up these voices, most often marginalized women, and restore their perspectives, insights and aspirations to the discussion.

Based on our innovative Community Based Oral Testimony methodology, where villagers in Bangladesh interviewed their neighbors about their experiences as loan recipients, we have helped capture and document these voices and are hard at work to ensure that they are heard in Bangladesh and around the world.

This community driven research raises many questions about the claims of gender empowerment made by microcredit supporters. In the words of Kohinoor Begum, Community Researcher and loan recipient herself:

 

[quote]Generally, credit is given in the name of the woman. The credit agencies do not grant credit if there is not a woman residing in the household. This is why male members of our homes or husbands sometimes force us to take credit. But, if we take credit, we have to hand it over to our husband or father-in-law who uses it in any way he wishes." [/quote]

 

Kohinoor went on to testify to the hidden perils that women like herself have experienced due to the misuse and exploitative practices taken by the lending institutions and the men of the communities in the rural villages where we conducted our research:  

 

[quote]But, the NGO employees come to recover the money from us (women) and we have to face many insults and indignities ... It is the men who spend the money. But, payment of installment is sought from the women. We talk of women before all and talk of empowerment, but women are used within the traps and labyrinths of micro-credit. Women are deprived of their rights. Since women have begun taking micro-credit, oppression on her has multiplied. The evil practice of dowry became manifold. Because of micro-credit, social solidarity in villages is at stake." [/quote]

- Kohinoor Begum, Community Researcher


Goldin Institute grassroots social change

Revisiting Microfinance

Marking an important anniversary date on microfinance policy 

Today we revisit our appearance on Worldview exploring the policies and ongoing scrutiny put on the effectiveness of microfinance programs in places like India and Bangladesh.  

Goldin Institute co-founder Diane Goldin (left) pictured with project partners in Bangladesh.

Informed by our project work in Bangladesh, where we set out to improve the way that microcredit was implemented from the perspective of borrowers, Executive Director Travis Rejman was interviewed to discuss the current practices in place by large banks and how they could improve their lending methods by taking into account what we learned in our research and project developments.

If you didn't get a chance to hear the interview when it originally ran, it is archived and available for stream here. Joining Travis on the show, was our partner from Grantmakers Without Borders Susan Beaudry. We collaborated with Susan to help donors sort through the facts and spin associated with microcredit lending practices in the downloadable guide: Microfinance: A Guide for Grantmakers.


Goldin Institute grassroots social change

Studies Show Microcredit Shortcomings

Six New Studies Point to the Inflated-Promise of Microcredit in Transforming the Lives of the Poor

We just became aware of this report, which compiles comprehensive research critical of the standard microcredit model.  

Economist Esther Duflo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a co-founder and co-director of J-PAL, co-author of the India and Morocco studies, and founding editor of the American Economic Journal:

 

[quote]These loans do help, but the changes are not transformative, certainly not transformative enough to justify charitable donations to the standard microcredit model. We have seen, though, that these are viable profit-making products, and so investors interested in a double-bottom line should take note."[/quote]

- Applied Economics

 

The Goldin Institute conducting research in Bangladesh.<br>Photo Credit: Goldin Institute

Duflo suggests researchers and non-profits focus their attention on other approaches for financial inclusion for the poor.

Our own research in Bangladesh, which brought  the voices of loan recipients to the table to address the ways in which microcredit often had net negative impact to their communities, mirrors many of the same findings coming to light in the J-PAL and IPA studies. 

 


Goldin Institute grassroots social change

Goldin Institute's Travis Rejman Interviewed on Worldview

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Interested in learning more about the promise and peril of microcredit?

The current debate about the efficacy of microfinance is marked by the absence of those who have most at stake in the controversy: loan recipients. The Goldin Institute is working to lift up these voices—most often marginalized women—and restore their perspectives, insights and aspirations to the discussion.

Based on the Goldin Institute's work in Bangladesh to listen to loan recipients and lift up their voices as the basis for improving microcredit, Executive Director Travis Rejman speaks with Jerome McDonald on NPR's Worldview Program to provide perspective and analysis on the microcredit movement. We were thrilled to be joined for the interview with our colleague Susan Beaudry from Grantmakers Without Borders who edited the Funders Guide to Microcredit.

The conversation can be listened to in it's entirety by direct stream or downloadable podcast by clicking here.  


Goldin Institute grassroots social change

Transcript of Roundtable Dialogue in Bangladesh

Microcredit Summit in Dhaka

Groundbreaking meeting between microcredit recipients, lenders and regulators, hosted in June 2010.

We are pleased to share the recently compiled transcript from the "Listening to the Experiences of Microcredit Recipients" roundtable discussion that took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on June 21, 2010.  This groundbreaking summit was the first dialogue between microcredit recipients, lenders and regulators in Bangladesh and is leading to new, more recipient-focused policies at the National Level.  
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The dialogue was facilitated by our partner Khushi Kabir, Coordinator of Nijera Kori, who opened the dialogue by stating "Sometimes both sides become defensive while discussing the positive and negative impacts of micro-credit. To avoid this situation, we are calling upon all of you for an open and civil discussion."

Important quotes from the unedited transcript include:


[quote]We talked to the micro-credit recipients and came to know about their plight. I have seen their silent tears. The crude cycle of paying installment (kisti) begins from within one week of taking the credit. The poor cannot even have three meals a day, cannot properly feed their children but they must return back the installment. Otherwise, NGO employees come to snatch away cattle, do verbal abuse and sexually harass the female credit-recipients and so many other things. The pain of paying installments within just one week of taking loans detracts the members from pursuing other pleasures of life, like buying even a fruit for the children."[/quote]

- Hosne Ara, Community Researcher


[quote]Generally, credit is given in the name of the woman. The credit agencies do not grant credit if there is not a woman residing in the household. This is why male members of our homes or husbands sometimes force us to take credit. But, if we take credit, we have to hand it over to our husband or father-in-law who uses it in any way he wishes. But, the NGO employees come to recover the money from us (women) and we have to face many insults and indignities ... It is the men who spend the money. But, payment of installment is sought from the women. We talk of women before all and talk of empowerment, but women are used within the traps and labyrinths of micro-credit."[/quote]

- Kohinoor Begum, Community Researcher


[quote]Women are deprived of their rights. Since women have begun taking micro-credit, oppression on her has multiplied. The evil practice of dowry became manifold. Because of micro-credit, social solidarity in villages is at stake."[/quote]

- Kohinoor Begum, Community Researcher


[quote]One has to take a loan from a NGO to repay the installment of another NGO. Thus we are getting entrapped in debt cycles."[/quote]

- Nurul Islam, Community Researcher


[quote]This is the first time that the community researchers have conducted research on their own. And, we could hear the content of their research directly from them."[/quote]

- Lopita Haque, BRAC Development Institute


[quote]Thanks for giving me the opportunity to directly talk with those for whom I am working ... This is the first time I heard their direct experiences. If the slightest portion of the facts revealed in this workshop are true, then it is surely alarming. We have a policy problem at the state level from top to bottom."[/quote]

- Lila Rashid, Director, Micro-credit Regulatory Authority of Bangladesh


[quote]... [microcredit] is for 'public benefit.' Public benefit cannot be measured only through the 'recovery rate.' Rather it should really benefit the target people for whom the micro-credit scheme is designed."[/quote]

- Iftikharuzzman, Executive Director, Transparency International Bangladesh


[quote]Generally, we evaluate micro-credit from the viewpoint of outcomes and numbers and look for empirical ends, but we ignore the social process. But the social process is a huge pressure in itself."[/quote]

- Dr. Dina Siddique, Senior Associate. Womens Studies Centre, University of Pennsylvania


[quote]Problems that existed during that time still exist and will continue to exist ... But, we want it to be limited within an acceptable number and to be addressed through discussion and limitation. We do often hear the problems, which have been discussed in today's round-table. We hear such complaints every time."[/quote]

- Azim Hossain, ASA

How can the hard-core poor pay the interest within one week of taking micro-credit? He cannot pay it without selling his assets. And, when a poor man or woman sells his or her asset, it is not a proper sale. But it becomes a 'forced sale' or 'distress sale.' S/he does not get the proper price for it. Does micro-credit accelerate the process of 'distress sale' for the poor? In my opinion, yes, it does."

- Professor Abul Barkat

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Click to download the entire transcript.



Goldin Institute grassroots social change

Community Based Oral Testimony

Community Based Oral Testimony

Rethinking Research from the Perspective of Community Experience

In debates on development, the voices of those it affects the most are often conspicuously absent.  Our strategy for bringing their voices back in was simple: we decided to ask them. We adopted a strategy known as "oral testimony" which relies on extended semi-structured interviews to let participants tell their own stories in their own words, share their opinions and experiences and convey their own understandings of how development and poverty has transformed the history of their lives and villages.

CBOTImage1We wanted to take this approach a step further. Often oral testimony research is colored by power-dynamics between "researchers" and "subjects". Within these dynamics, answers to questions are often pre-determined by what each party expects to hear from the other. We decided to address this by inviting microcredit recipients in Arampur, a village in rural Northern Bangladesh, to interview each other about their own experiences with loans. We hoped that the content of these interviews would be shaped by mutual dialogue, rather than by top down agendas and expectations about what we, as researchers, wanted to hear.

 

In order to do this, we trained a group of villagers in basic, qualitative research techniques and invited them to interview their peers and neighbors. The result was open-ended, conversation-style interviews, recorded using digital-audio recorders, in which the interviewees participated in directing the discussion by framing conversations through stories, life experiences and their own personal histories with microcredit lending organizations. Using this approach we heard what people had to say about microcredit on their own terms.

"There are many things hidden there that nobody knows, not everyone feels comfortable about saying everything any place. There are so many secrets to know, so many strange events that have happened, I never heard of anything like these stories before. There are so many kinds of people in this world! Even I myself have a long history which cannot be told in one sitting." - Kohinoor Begum, Community Researcher

What are the advantages of this approach?

  • The community researchers themselves were all microcredit loan recipients. They were able to give us early insight into the landscape of credit and poverty within the village. They participated in shaping and revising our research goals to better answer our questions about microcredit, as well as transforming the strategies we employed to accomplish them.
  • As community members, they understood the best ways to conduct the work within the cultural context of rural Bangladesh. They understood what the best times to approach people were, how to make each interview session as comfortable for respondents as possible, how to best navigate the complexities of rural Bangladeshi household and gender power dynamics, and how to ask probing questions without crossing sensitive lines.
  • As community members, they understood the best ways to conduct the work within the cultural context of rural Bangladesh. They understood what the best times to approach people were, how to make each interview session as comfortable for respondents as possible, how to best navigate the complexities of rural Bangladeshi household and gender power dynamics, and how to ask probing questions without crossing sensitive lines.
  • Respondents were more comfortable speaking with their neighbors than they would be with a researcher from outside. Respondents did not have to explain taken for granted points. They did not have to couch their language or speaking style to be understandable to an outsider. Further, the semi and unstructured interview strategy allowed the respondents to direct the conversation, steering discussions to what they wished to talk about.
  • Community researchers were better situated to explain and help us interpret stories and experiences as they were shared. They did this by recording audio field notes after every interview and by sharing their stories in daily debriefing sessions.
  • Community researchers were able to elicit different kinds of responses and stories than those we could have gathered on our own. The stories shared by respondents were of a remarkably different kind than those that could or would have been shared with outside researchers. As such, the interviews collected by our fieldworkers contain different kinds of insights, stories, and critiques that shed a new light on microcredit in rural Bangladesh.
  • Community researchers knew their community and therefore knew what questions to ask. They knew their respondents and were able to ask about specific incidents from their lives and histories. They could seek targeted information about their families and livelihoods. They knew the intimate details of cultural, agricultural, and political processes in the village. They were able to ask questions that pertained directly to local practices and histories.

 

To learn more about this unique methodology and its impact in Bangladesh, click to download a copy of the Community Based Oral Testimony Overview.