The Role of Microfinance in Women’s Empowerment in Sierra Leone. A Case of Market Women in Bo City, Southern Province

Abdulai B. Dumbuya, Ibrahim Munu


The development of poor communities is contingent upon the interventions of development partners in the affairs of government and non-governmental organizations worldwide. Since it gained prominence with its declaration in 2005 by the United Nations General Assembly, microfinance has been highly noted as an intervention that could help elevate the socioeconomic status of low-income earners and improve their standard of living by providing financial services to enhance development. This study examines microfinance's role in women’s empowerment in Bo City, southern Sierra Leone, using BRAC Sierra Leone’s microfinance scheme for market women in Bo Big Market Center as a case study. Questionnaire instruments and interviews were used to collect primary data from 290 respondents, some of whom were microfinance beneficiaries and female business table owners. The ensuing data was analyzed using simple statistical tools, and results were presented in charts and figures.

The study revealed that although there are challenges for women to access resources, MFIs have provided options for women to explore in addition to the few other options available to them. However, a significant constraint was the need for more funds to transform their businesses meaningfully. Furthermore, although the MFIs give loans to all genders, women are often more preferred. In addition to providing microcredits in cash terms, some MFIs also give agricultural products like seedlings and animals to their clients. To guide the economic activities of their clients, some MFIs offer training programs on basic bookkeeping, savings, and accountability lessons.

The study further revealed that although some women seek these loans to start or improve their businesses, they often use many of these monies to handle other affairs, like paying school fees for their wards and buying household items. Thus, the services provided by MFIs have significantly enhanced women's ability to start other income-generating activities, increase their chances of contributing to the development of their children, and improve their decision-making stance in their communities.

However, despite the incredible benefits realized from MFIs, these market women face many challenges, including loan diversion and a need for more financial discipline in their businesses. Short repayment schedules and unjustified deductions from the monies expected from MFIs were also significant challenges that were revealed.

Based on all of these issues identified, it was recommended that training programs for both clients and MFI staff must be an integral part of their services. Also, Financial discipline must be instilled into the clients to avoid loan diversion, creating a better chance to improve their businesses. Additionally, MFIs are expected to monitor or supervise their clients and businesses by continuously engaging with them on critical elements of their businesses. Finally, the central government must ensure that robust regulations are provided and implemented to govern the operations of MFIs and guide the implementation of interest rates for the clients.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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