“Just the Facts, Ma’am”: Gender Stories from Unexpected Sources with Morals for Microfinance

An American television detective of several decades ago was famous for reminding witnesses, “just the facts, ma’am.” The Microcredit Summit Campaign originally requested a paper called “How Microfinance Contributes to Gender Equality.” It’s a nice invitation to re-visit some of the 50-odd pages of reporting on empowering women through microfinance that the Campaign originally commissioned in 2002—but then again, you can read that paper in the book Pathways Out of Poverty or on the Microfinance Gateway. For this paper, we wanted to do something a little different—frankly hoping to attract readers beyond the women’s empowerment loyalists. The microfinance industry broke new ground by recognizing women as a market to be served and as a force in the development of their own communities. Yet questions remain. How well do we “see” this previously invisible market? Do we believe that it’s truly worth serving and that it can be a profitable market? And do we know the market as well as we should in order to serve it well? We decided to look for answers in a series of case studies that can be skimmed for lessons learned and that largely can each be read on its own.

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