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Microfinance and Its Discontents: Women in Debt in Bangladesh Paperback – March 7, 2011

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"It is precisely because the microcredit mantra has been so endlessly repeated, often in place of actual empirical documentation to back its claims, that Microfinance and Its Discontents is so compelling. This is an outstanding, courageous, and path-breaking piece of scholarship; one that will doubtless unsettle the microcredit establishment, and by extension, key presumptions of neoliberal research agendas." —Kamala Visweswaran, University of Texas, Austin



"Lamia Karim has done an excellent job by juxtaposing facts against myths, lies against truths and objective research against subjective hagiographies. . . . I believe this book is an important addendum to the growing literature that demonstrates and deconstructs the lies and myths about microcredit and NGO business in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the Third World." —countercurrents.org

"Karim's book is a timely contribution to the debate on microfinance, and is a challenging and engaging read for the specialist as well as the lay reader. I believe that her ideas will serve as a guideline for future researchers’ and policy-makers inquiries into the gender aspect of microfinance." —Soumya Mishra, Governance across Borders

"Karim’s book serves as a stark and timely reminder of the value of ethnographic research in offering a deeper understanding of how developmental interventions in specific institutional and local contexts may reproduce or even exacerbate structural inequalities, and also in informing the strategies that seek to counter these inequalities." —Economic & Political Weekly

About the Author

Lamia Karim is associate professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Oregon, Eugene.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; 50658th edition (March 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816670951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816670956
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is groundbreaking work. It reveals that underneath all the hype and cheerleading for microfinance, there is a different, and less hopeful, story. This book is set in the home country of Mohammed Yunus, who received the Nobel Peace Prize, along with his Grameen Bank, for developing microfinance. Karim shows that microfinance in Bangladesh has really served mainly as a way for those who run microfinance institutions to make money and status, while the women who are supposed to be served have found increasing negative pressures on their time and meager resources. Microfinance, rather than helping women, has only reinforced the patriarchal social structures in Bangladesh, leaving women with even more obligations than before and making no real dent in poverty. It's no wonder that Yunus' legacy is being challenged today in Bangladesh. If you want to know about microfinance, buy this book!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an incredible book written for a scholarly audience but accessible and quite powerful for those of us who aren't in the world of academia. Despite her research orientation, the author (full disclosure: a college friend of mine a long time ago) cannot help but use a few choice exclamation marks when the subject calls for it--like the story of the single mother of a toddler whose house was literally dissembled before her eyes and all her belongings carted away to settle a loan with a balance of just over $2. Karim learns the truth because she speaks the language and knows the terrain since as a native of Bangladesh and Pakistan. Microfinance was meant to inspire women's empowerment but instead harms women, with high interest, often unaffordable loans usually controlled by male family members,and collection procedures from Hell.NGOs promoting these loans should be ashamed; instead they are awarded the Nobel Prize.This is an important book and honestly I could not put it down.
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Format: Paperback
It seemed too good to be true, but we went ahead anyway, handed out the Nobel Peace Prize and lots of laudatory appearances around the world for its founder Muhammad Yunus, and cheered replications from even large banks. Now, author Karim from Bangladesh draws on far more extensive exposure than the staged field visits of many of the 'expert assessments' previously made of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Author Karim uses eight case studies, including marginally successful 'phone ladies, a failed chicken breeding venture, and the practice of housebreaking (fellow villagers and even kin dismantling a house to sell off the materials to recover debt). The results were nowhere near the 'liberating force' or 'silver bullet to poverty' micro-lending had been labeled.

By 2006 there were only three large microfinance institutions in Bangladesh - Grameen Bank, BRAC, and ASA, covering 90% of the country. Ninety-five percent of their microfinance borrowers are women, though most of the money is then used by their husbands - sometimes even appropriated by a widow's male relatives. (Grameen tried loaning money to men - most would not accept the terms; another problem - most are working during the day.) Rural centers of 40 women, sub-divided into 8 groups of five each, became the structure of microfinance. Small loans of $100 - 200 were expected to be repaid within a year at a fixed effective interest rate of 32% plus sundry hidden costs - less than the prevailing moneylenders' rate of 120%. It did not, however, stamp out those moneylenders and their rates.

When a default occurs, the bank withheld money from the other members, forcing them to either pay up or lose access to future loans.
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Format: Kindle Edition
As a long time proponent of microfinance, I was very skeptical about this book. I had to read the first 3 chapters for school, but ended up reading the whole book. The book provides a difficult yet realistic aspect of microfinance in a country where NGOs have taken on the role of local governance. The author, having carried out her research in Bangladesh, exposed the "other side" of microfinance that we often do not hear of through different narratives, many of which are disturbingly true. If you're interested in international development, microfinance or women development, this book is a must read! Highly recommended.
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