Empowerment or a 'citizenship project'? : microcredit with education in Cuzco, Peru Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/9019s563x

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  • Microfinance, or the technique of lending small amounts of money to the world's poor for productive activities, has emerged as a dominant approach to poverty alleviation among international development organizations. However, consensus does not yet exist as to the best mechanism for delivery of loans. While most organizations simply offer loans, a policy associated with accepted 'best practices' within the microfinance industry, a minority of organizations offer education and other non-financial services alongside loans. A debate persists among the proponents of each strategy as to which approach is not only most cost-effective for the institution, but also most empowering for its clients in their efforts to escape poverty. This thesis centers upon an organization in Peru offering credit with education, and offers a case study which could inform this debate. The data presented here were collected during a three-month period of qualitative research in Cuzco, Peru. My research shows that because social exclusion in Peru has been justified in terms of whether or not an individual is educated or 'cultured,' loans alone are not sufficient to lift poor Peruvians out of the poverty which accompanies their inferior position in the social hierarchy. At the institutional level, I find that the educational component is praised by borrowers and has outcomes which are beneficial to all involved. I conclude that while this particular strategy may be a success in this context, this may not hold in all other contexts. Planning and design of microcredit programs should not be carried out in accordance with standardized industry best practices, but should instead be carried out on a case-to-case basis with careful attention to prevailing historical and cultural conditions.
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