Women and Money: Lessons from Senegal

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Author: Isabelle Guérin

Date: June 16, 2006

Link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.0012-155X.2006.00490.x

Source: Guérin, I. (2006). Women and money: Lessons from Senegal. Development and change37(3), 549-570.

Introduction

With 2005 being declared the “Year of Microfinance”, groups that are excluded from formal banking services were heavily targeted by microfinancing programs. Women, especially, during this time were faced with the matter of having difficulties finding self-sustainable payment while also being expected to run household errands. Nevertheless, they are still confronted with restricted property ownership and attaining credit access. But how effective is microfinance in mitigating these issues? Many have voiced that over the past decades, these services have actually strengthened the inequality–especially between genders–leading users into deeper debt and increasing unemployment.

Methodology

This study takes a deeper dive into women’s informal financial practices and their impact on microfinance programs. With a sample size of roughly 100 women, an interview was conducted to analyze their role and dynamic within their families, professional relationships, and other social groups such as religious associations and political parties.

Outcome

  • The common concern among women with/without the professional status of an entrepreneur is the pressure of responsibilities of taking care while also keeping up with community obligations draining their money as a result
  • Although many women are not seen saving physical cash (social pressure mentioned above), many hold assets that can be later converted into valuables that can help them in unwanted situations (these assets are multifunctional and more secure)
  • Tontine: Members chip fixed amounts of cash in rounds of intervals in a common fund which is then passed to members in an order which can be discussed among the community
  • A reciprocating system involving a lender and borrower can lead to indenting different parties poisoning some relationships
    • This system becomes even more complicated between groups of unequal status
  • Salaried women/women married to salaried individuals may be privileged but obligations with their communities or familial relations can cost them

Analysis:

This data may be outdated. The year of microfinance was more of a relevant discussion during a time when more women were at home and when jobs that could support women alone were scarce. But there is still nevertheless some relevancy in discussing the practices women dealt with to sustain themselves both socially and economically (for their family) in these locations during this time. Not to mention, these issues could are still majorly prevalent in some patriarchal countries and households.

Something this reading highlighted that is in general a beneficial lesson in terms of financial attitude is the idea that money is not the only product that holds value, especially for individuals where money is not their main measure of status. Individuals that do not have the opportunity to make the money mentioned in the reading have other obligations–that being social, and holding up to community expectations. Having a solution that does not limit the individual’s value of money to mitigate the intimidation of numbers and financial responsibilities could also attract individuals who are struggling to even take the first step to even knowing what financial literacy entails.