The role of the microcredit program in women’s empowerment in a natural disaster-prone area of Bangladesh: a critical analysis
Natural disasters such as cyclone and flood in the coastal areas of Bangladesh has become a common phenomenon, especially since the last two decades due to the impact of global climate change and global warming. The impacts of natural disasters among the residents of coastal areas are enormous. They face huge financial loss due to the unemployment, deaths of domestic animals, lower crop productions, broken or affected houses, and so on. In addition, they become vulnerable both physically and psychologically during and post-disaster period. However, the impacts of the natural disasters are not the same over men and women. Women become more vulnerable due to their double duties, lack of safety, and for the patriarchal nature of society. The microcredit organizations arguably try to reduce the vulnerabilities of these women by providing short-term loan and also claim to empower them. Therefore, the study emphasizes whether these women are, in reality, becoming empowered. The study was conducted among 384 women who were purposively selected from 6367 households in Southkhali Union, Sarankhola Upazila (sub-district), Bagherhat district, Bangladesh. Results show the overwhelming majority of the participants (90%) were somehow affected by the last natural disaster, either by a cyclone or flood. Regarding the usage of microcredit, the majority of the participants (57%) who are the receivers of microcredit could not use the money independently, as their husbands took the loan from them forcefully. And only 8% of them could invest the microcredit in productive activity such as starting a small business. It is worth noting that 82% of the participants mentioned that their engagement with the microcredit organizations could not change their role in the family, e.g., they could participate in the decision making procedure within the household.
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