Tackling poverty one small step at time
22 November 2012
Over the past half century, a system of microfinance developed in India has provided small loans, savings accounts and business training for people unable to access regular banking services.
Growing up in Hyderabad, Archana Preeti Voola would observe her domestic helpers put a part of their wage aside and take time off to attend their microfinance group meetings.
The experience gave her a vantage point to see microfinance in action and to explore the gender dimension of its policy and practice.
Now a PhD student in the University of Sydney's Faculty of Education and Social Work, Archana believes that Australian policy makers, academics, service providers and users can learn from India's experience, as microfinance gains legitimacy as a poverty alleviation strategy in Australia.
Her research seeks to go beyond economics to understand inequalities and how best to address them. Are microfinance policies creating opportunities for women to take decisions on investment and spending? And are they providing the infrastructure such as childcare facilities to enable women to work?
"I discovered that in India, policies focus on women and recognise that they are disadvantaged," she says. "But in Australia, it is assumed that everyone is equal even though most women are in part-time and casual work, and earn much less than men for the same job."
Findings emanating from her research will contribute new knowledge on the international transferability of microfinance, especially in the field of social policy, gender and development studies.
Contact: Richard North
Phone: 02 9351 3191