of the world's poorest women are self-employed in small businesses.
For the past two decades, it has become evident that increasing
access to credit is an equitable and efficient aid to breaking the cycle
of poverty, particularly for micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries.
But many specialised micro-finance institutions, created to reach
very poor, small-scale borrowers who are cut off from more conventional
credit sources, do not always reach women.
The assumption that credit in fact helped increase women's and
men's income and individual well-being remained largely untested.
addressing this issue, the United Nations International Research and
Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) undertook a
series of research studies on the administrative, legal and institutional
barriers to credit that women encounter at various levels of the economy,
particularly in rural areas.
As part of a comprehensive global overview of gender and credit,
INSTRAW further addressed the problems of gender-based methodology and
substance in a study of the operations of the Association for the
Development of Micro-Enterprises (ADEMI) in the Dominican Republic.
objectives of study, which included both male and female clients, were to
clarify the results of credit in terms of individual income, family health
and nutrition, business reinvestment and job creation.
The survey also attempted to analyse the relative importance of
several variables, such as whether or not a woman was head of a household.
study verified that when women had access to credit, sales and income
increased, sometimes dramatically, and women were likely to allocate a
significant proportion of this additional income to their families'
health, nutrition and education.
For heads of household, the major motive was not personal economic
advancement but rather the financial stability of their families and, in some cases, their very survival.
In addition, women solely or primarily responsible for their
families were likely to reinvest a larger portion of their profits in
their businesses in order to preserve or expand their income-generating
capacities, although family needs were still very important.