Microfinance and Women’s Empowerment in Myanmar

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Angathevar Baskaran
Thiri Dong
Sonia Kumari Selvarajan


Like in many other developing countries, microfinance programmes in Myanmar have become an avenue to reduce poverty. This research examines whether microfinance in Myanmar has empowered female clients compared to non-microfinance clients, in terms of: (i) general decision-making (children’s education, family planning, children’s marriage, health care); and (ii) financial decision-making (income utilisation, loan usage, savings, investment). Primary data was collected using a questionnaire survey to achieve the research objectives. The sample of the survey consists of two groups of women living in the Ayeyarwady region, Myanmar: (i) Beneficiaries of microfinance programmes, and (ii) non-beneficiaries of any microfinance institutions. Female clients either started a new business or expanded/diversified an existing business using microfinance, which helped to increase income and savings. Overall, 89.8% of microfinance clients have gained significant empowerment (in making general and financial decisions combined). The discriminant analysis based on four indicators - children’s education, children’s marriage, savings, and investment - shows that the decision-making power of microfinance clients has improved compared to non-clients. The government should actively promote a microfinance ecosystem through robust microfinance institutional frameworks including, microfinance institutions, intermediaries, and local government agencies. Financial literacy awareness campaigns should be organised frequently to promote wider women’s participation in microfinance programmes.


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