Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Comparative Sociology

Advisor's Name

Liliana Goldin

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

John Clark

Advisor's Name

Vrushali Patil

Advisor's Name

Guillermo Grenier

Keywords

Women, African Women, Senegalese Women, Third-World women, Africa, Senegal, Household well-being, Microcredit, Microfinance, Entrepreneurship

Date of Defense

3-11-2011

Abstract

The challenging living conditions of many Senegalese families, and the absence of a providing spouse, have led women to covet new economic opportunities, such as microcredit loans. These loans offer Senegalese women the possibility to financially support their households and become active participants in their economies by starting or sustaining their micro businesses. The study takes place in Grand-Yoff, an overpopulated peri-urban area of the Senegalese capital city Dakar, where most people face daily survival issues. This research examines the impact of microcredit activities in the household of Senegalese female loan recipients in Grand-Yoff by examining socio-economic indicators, in particular outcomes of health, education and nutrition.

The research total sample is constituted of 166 female participants who engage in microcredit activities. The research combines both qualitative and quantitative methods. Data for the study were gathered through interviews, surveys, participant observation, focus-groups with the study participants and some of their household members, and document analysis.

While some women in the study make steady profits from their business activities, others struggle to make ends meet from their businesses’ meager or unreliable profits. Some study participants who are impoverished have no choice but to invest their loans directly into their households’ dire needs, hence missing their business prerogative. Many women in the study end up in a vicious cycle of debt by defaulting on their loans or making late payments because they do not have the required household and socio-economic conditions to take advantage of these loans. Therefore, microcredit does not make a significant impact in the households of the poorest female participants. The study finds that microcredit improves the household well-being - especially nutrition, health and education - of the participants who have acquired significant social capital such as a providing spouse, formal education, training, business experience, and belonging to business or social networks.

The study finds that microcredit’s household impact is intimately tied to the female borrowers’ household conditions and social capital. It is recommended that microcredit services and programs offer their female clients assistance and additional basic services, financial guidance, lower interest rates, and flexible repayment schedules.

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