Unpacking the Untold Narratives

The book was written by Nawaz, F. and she tried to portray how microfinance can bring change to the situation of the poverty level in a highly populated country like Bangladesh. She also provides examples where microfinance can be seen as a blessing for many households and especially for women. In Bangladesh, women lag and there are various causes like gender discrimination, disempowerment, and lack of education facilities that play a vital role. Microfinance refers to the idea of providing poor and unprivileged women loans which is collateral-free. This book has 7 chapters describing women's condition and their scopes of improvement, results of adopting microfinance and enriched life. The author provided certain figures and tables and used data to make the readers understand the depth of microfinance importance, which also made the comparison stronger for readers.

Bangladesh is an overpopulated country which is filled with gender inequality. In Bangladesh, almost half of the population is women but being a patriarchal society, male dominates and decides most of the rule. Besides, women are being dominated and they live in poverty which can be seen mostly in rural areas. Government or other organizations located in the market could not help the women but only the non-governmental organizations, NGOs became the saviour for rural women. This incident also fueled the growth of NGOs in Bangladesh. This book states the circumstances that helped rural women be independent financially and provided them with an option be recover their life. According to the author, the people of this country do not usually allow women to be involved in any kind of reproductive work or to get busy with work outside of their homes. So, it was a great chance for them to grab the offer of microfinance and start something within their home. Also, another factor here is rural Bangladeshi women are illiterate mostly as well as they are bounded by various superstitions, religious sanctions and social norms. Though NGOs is popular in Bangladesh recently the concept of NGO is years old and operating since the British colonial period. The author states that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) began as philanthropic and volunteer groups. Their efforts gradually shifted from humanitarian assistance to building social welfare to stimulate prosperity, which included the introduction of microcredit schemes.

The author also describes a prolonged history of microfinance and the system of globalization. Like every other topic brought up from scratch, microfinance has a brief history of evolution as a global development model. The second chapter is giving insight into the pre and post-liberation war period when microfinance started its journey in Bangladesh and its development of it giving it a global perspective. From then to recent times, the idea of microfinance is working to improve lifestyle and remove poverty. When different credit programs and government projects failed to remove the mark of poverty, NGOs came forward with their idea of microfinance and it has proven successful. As per the author, Bangladesh has declared the birth space of microcredit. It all started with Grameen Bank introducing a project near the Chittagong University campus.

Chapter three related both the concepts of microfinance and women empowerment together. It has been a topic of debate for a long time whether microfinance leads to a good results or not. According to the author, there have been two paradoxical arguments but she did not clearly state them but rather describes them through examples. Such hoax was in favour and another is against microfinance on women empowerment. The microfinance program introduced by the NGOs made the weak women of Bangladesh hold a position in the family after getting their back financially. They are now more involved in the decision making process and spending on their family. Through several study results which were conducted on different women, the author supported this argument. Another paradox is also supported by the research studies which say, very few, to be specific 21% of women faced a positive change in their lives. However, this book surely tells the readers about some manifesting storey about rural life and women living as well trying to live better.

Chapters 4 and 5 describe the impact that microfinance has on women's economic development and overall community empowerment. The author indicates women's empowerment with power over and with relationships including economic, psychological, and political empowerment. Firstly, the book describes whom to hover over which type of powers and why. For example, the author stated a question-answer session where women were asked whether they are associated with income-generating activities before and after joining microfinance. Among them, 2.5% of women were involved in income-generating activities before enrolling and 92.5% started after enrolling in microfinance. Hence, they are getting empowered economically. The author shows various data in tables, interviews and direct words of the interviewee to support this argument. Microfinance not only improves and empowers individuals rather it is also focusing on community empowerment. There is a link between an individual and a community because every individual is a part of the broader community. If an only individual is focused it is difficult to set a bigger plan. Women can indeed reach an acceptable degree of sovereignty if their domestic level of empowerment transcends to the communal level. However, it is indeed challenging to go against the patriarchal society and its norms and that is why sometimes, women respondents were less as stated by the author.

Women were found to be empowered in the aspect of socio-cultural factors, and political factors besides the previously mentioned economic power. Women take part in decision making and have a place in family and society of their own, though the number is quite little. Again, in chapter 7, the author states the ending and demonstrates the summary statement about constraints to serving women and hindrances in the long term journey.

This book is perfect for the people with an interest in the economy and women empowerment, who are working in the people or community empowerment sector. This book is useful and trustworthy since it is backed up with multiple resources, data, charts and easy choice of words.

Mohammad Shahidul Islam, PhD. Assistant Professor, Brac Business School, Brac University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email: mohd.sh.islam@bracu.ac.bd

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