On addressing the impact of poverty on gender/power relations and women’s empowerment,this study engraves itself into broader discourses and debates on gendered inequalities in the Middle East.Introducing the context that Saudi Arabia is an undisguised,self-evident patriarchal state,this study aims at investigating the positive and negative implications on female clients…
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On addressing the impact of poverty and microfinance on gender/power relations and women’s empowerment,this study engraves itself into broader discourses and debates on gendered inequalities in the Middle East.Introducing the context that Saudi Arabia is an undisguised,self-evident patriarchal state,this study aims at investigating the positive and negative implications on female clients. By studying the microfinance initiatives and examining the underlying principles of Bab Rizq Jameel (BRJ), the positive and negative implication on female clients are analyzed, particularly in terms of its effects on their decision-making and bargaining power in the household. This case study on microfinance in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia aspires to unfold an important and lacking dimension to the current debates surrounding gender and development in developing countries. Keywords: Microfinance, Saudi Arabia, Bab Rizq Jameel (BRJ), gender relations, women’s economic/social empowerment, bargaining power, decision-making and household. Introduction Microfinance institutions vary in terms of their goals, agenda’s and assumptions. There have been continual debates on whether microfinance can be considered as a savior to poverty-stricken women from oppression and gendered inequalities or whether having access to micro-financial resources can empower women economically. There are studies which argue that microcredit helps to empower women thus promoting gender-equality and improving household well-being while microfinance ‘does not directly challenge any official views that subjugate women’ (Aminul et al., 2011). Women are treated as second-class citizens and are chiefly oppressed by the laws and constraints imposed on them through patriarchal states such as Sharee’a law in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There are also the traditions and customs that give rise to inequalities and gendered division of roles that are produced and reinforced from ‘relationships that are intrinsically gendered’ within the household (Khateeb, 2011). This study being the vanguard of research on gender and development through microfinance, it felt natural that the appropriate start should be from the grass root’s level, the household. Gender-related rigidity in the intra-household is the core institution where the microfinance women clients spend most of their time. This study primarily deals with investigating the impact of microfinance on gender relations in the household. Professor M. Khateeb (Khateeb, 2011) in her lecture about gender, household and domestic domain points out that there is an explicit focus on the household because ‘it is the site of the earliest socialisation processes and gender identity formation. Secondly, it is central to the analysis of the organisation of production and reproduction in different societies. The gender division of roles, responsibilities and resources within the household play an important role in shaping what men and women are able to do beyond the household. And finally a great deal of policy, both economic and social, is premised on assumptions about how gender relations are organised within households’. This study ultimately aims at assisting and enabling the policy makers of BRJ Microfinance programme to create policies that prioritise the impact of microfinance on gender relations in intra-household. On having a wider examination of BRJ’s assumptions, rationale and process coupled with gender power relations within household, policy makers would be able to arrive at a more accurate representation of the graving issue of unemployment and would also travel at a more effective outcome. Aims 1. How does microfinance impact gender relations in Saudi Arabia? 2. Effects of micro-financial resources in Saudi Arabia on women empowerment both in household and in society?1 3. How do micro-financial resources effect on the well-being of the families in Saudi Arabia in terms of survival, security, financial self-reliance and autonomy on various levels (Kabeer, 1994:304)? Objectives This
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