SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Over the past three decades, microfinance has become an extremely popular and populist development intervention. The Grameen Bank and its founder, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, were awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and the Global Microcredit Summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia set itself the goal of lending to 175 million people around the world by 2015. Despite such global enthusiasm, the limitations of microfinance are gradually being acknowledged even by its most vociferous proponents. The vast majority of NGOs in microfinance not only face tremendous challenges in balancing outreach and financial sustainability, but there is also growing evidence of their failure to make an aggregate impact on poverty reduction. At the same time, there is evidence that NGOs can – even without offering credit or savings programs – play extremely important roles in areas such as poverty relief, marketing, enterprise development, innovation, and social intermediation. This article looks at strategies NGOs in microfinance can use to meet their social justice goals without becoming completely seduced by commercial values or being lured away from their major objective of serving the poor. As a development methodology, microfinance is firmly embedded within a neo-liberal framework that seeks to increase poor people’s access to financial resources without really challenging the entrenched status quo of unequal power relations between different groups of people. The continued popularity of microfinance should not foreclose the possibility of more creative and complex engagement with inequality as well as for more boldly original visions and innovative solutions to promote human dignity and social justice.