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Gender, Disability and Micro-credit: Lessons learned from India

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Co-Sponsors: East Asia & Pacific Regional Disability Working Group and Human Development Network Social Protection Disability & Development Team

Chair: Ms. Evelyn Stark, CGAP, Global Resource Center for Access to Finance

Presenter: Ms. Asha Hans, Vice President, Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre (SMRC)

Presentation Introduction and Review:

This brown bag session focused on microfinance and disability, with the aim of analyzing the work done in India and suggesting a way forward, particularly for women with disabilities. Microfinance has been seen by some people as a panacea for women's economic independence, but field experience represents a more complex picture as some women succeed with credit, and others find themselves mired in debt. Under the existing system, the speaker has found that few women with disabilities have been able to take advantage of access to loans.

In recent years, microfinance activities in India have increased greatly, especially as a result of the support of the national government. As more people have access to finance (primarily loans), there have also been critiques of high interest rates and the increased stress of repaying loans - leading to alarming reports of suicides. It is clear that microfinance is not the only solution to meet the economic needs of poor people, however, if microfinance (lending, savings, remittances, etc.) is to

reach more very poor people, including those with disabilities, existing models need to be improved to ensure positive impact. This BBL discussed the Bank's experience and initiatives in the context of the field experience in India.

Asha Hans is the Vice President of the SMRC, an organization dedicated to promoting the self-sufficiency of persons with disabilities and giving them a platform to raise issues regarding their rights. She is also founding director of Sansristi, a gender resource centre. At SMRC, Asha coordinates inclusive micro-credit groups (with members with and without disabilities, most of whom are women), provides training, assistance with banks and project management. She is also presently assisting SMRC with its campaign on inclusion of disability in disaster management.

Ms. Hans' work on disability includes a book entitled Women, Disability and Identity (Sage, 2003). She also recently completed an evaluation of the micro-credit scheme of the State Government of Madhya Pradesh as well as a study for UNDP/Government of India on the status of women with disabilities in four states in India. Her other publications include articles on women's reproductive health and disability. Asha has been a member of the Circles of Support Programme of Dortmund University in Germany and was the Founding Director of the Women's Studies Program at Utkal University in Orissa, India.

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