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Naila Kabeer

Is Microfinance a `Magic Bullet` for Women`s Empowerment?

Opinions on the impact of microfinance have been divided between those who see it as a "magic bullet" for women's empowerment and others who are dismissive of its abilities as a cure-all panacea for development. This paper seeks to examine the empirical evidence on the impact of microfinance with respect to poverty reduction and empowerment of poor women. It becomes apparent that while access to financial services can and does make vital contributions to the economic productivity and social well-being of poor women and their households, it does not "automatically" empower women, just as with other interventions, such as education, political quotas, etc, that seek to bring about a radical structural transformation that true empowerment entails. These other interventions simply constitute different entry points into this larger project, each with the potential for social transformation, but each is contingent on context, commitment and capacity if this potential is to become a reality.

Achieving Universal Primary Education

Bangladesh has achieved remarkable success in expanding primary education, especially for girls, despite continuing prevalence of widespread poverty and social devaluation of women and girls. This paper argues that underlining this success is a confluence of both demand- and supply-side factors involved in bringing about a profound social change. It explores the changing structure of economic opportunities and gender relations affecting parents' perception of the value of female education. The challenge now is to improve the quality of education that may prove more difficult than the expansion of access.