Because we did not have class today, I thought I would bring my comments on today's reading "Economic Empowerment of women as a global project" to be talked about on the class blog.
I really liked this essay, and although I though Berkovitch and Kemp did a fairly good job not only examining as well as critiquing Micro-Finance and Neoliberalism, I am still wary and doubtful. Maybe it is just my intense negative bias against neoliberalism and its practices of deregulation, commodification, and commercialization that made me question the lasting productivity of mico-finance.
I have read a lot of good things about the idea and I have in fact donated to micro-lending causes through different websites. I just question whether it really addresses the issues facing women at the root, rather than try to temporarily fix them. While the markets are good, and the good necessary for production the women around the world will do well. As they augment the family's income the inevitably will gain respect and standing with their husbands as well as the wider community. Moreover, they will gain agency- the ability to make independent judgement calls about their lives. Like getting an education, family choices and what skill sets they want to use to create their business. I also like that micro finance is built around community and the support of fellow business-women.
But I wonder is what happens when the market for that good collapses or the raw materials go up, or disappear? When the market collapses, what will be there to provide a safety net? After all, this is supposed to replace welfare or government interference. Also, I feel like the institutions of patriarchy such as violence against women, male breadwinners and the like will return... because they were not actually overturned, just tamed while the times were good.
Moreover, what influence will institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF have on these countries and inspiring women? I see both as powerful, hegemonic and symbolically male structures that are now leading the way to empower women globally. I am confused...I personally feel like many current situations facing women (in America but also abroad) were facilitated by Capitalism and are fueled by neo-liberalism! Prostitution, lack of health care, access to clean water and welfare politics all come to mind.
I really believe women are the answer to so many of our global issues. I also believe in investing in my fellow women-both here in the U.S and abroad. But is it safe to rely on such an unstable solution like Capitalism, neoliberal capitalism more specifically?!
I do not believe that "needs can be turned into markets". Because markets boom, and then they bust. And frankly, when it comes to feeding families, being safe from violence and having access to clean water/health care I do not think we should leave it up to chance or the "invisible hand". Like the authors so aptly write "does micro finance challenge existing gender power structures in a way that benefits and really empowers women? On this question, the evidence still remains inconclusive"(174).
The best I can suggest is a diverse selection of answers. Micro finance is a great option, but it needs to be supported by movements that directly challenge violence & patriarchy, access to clean air/water and a future free of neo-imperialism. I don't know what that looks like or the best answer- but the detriment of a single option or a forced option could be terrible.
What does everyone else think? Am I just a pessimist and disillusioned member of a Capitalist society?