Gender relations in access, control and utilisation of microfinance resources: a case of women in Kiharu Constituency, Murang’a County, Kenya
Kamau, Pauline W.
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The study sought to investigate gender relations in access, control and utilisation of micro-finance resources among women in Kiharu Constituency, Murang’a County of Kenya. Specifically, the study set out to determine the factors that influence access, control and utilisation of microfinance resources, identify challenges that women face in accessing MFIs resources, those that MFIs face in extension of resources to women and strategies that can enhance access, control and utilisation of resources among women in Kiharu. The study was guided by the feminist conflict theory. It targeted women who had accessed microfinance resources from MFIs with a total study sample of 140 respondents consisting of 90 women beneficiaries of MFIs and 20 male spouses of women beneficiaries. Others were 4 key informants who were MFI officers and 2 government Chiefs who were opinion leaders. There were two focus group discussions involving 12 women beneficiaries each. An interview schedule was used to collect data from women beneficiaries, their spouses, whereas key informant guides were used for key informants and opinion leaders. Focus group discussion guide and observation checklist were also utilised. Qualitative data was analysed using themes and quantitative data using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software. The study findings established that age, women’s marital status, the level of formal education and number of children depending on women influenced access to microfinance resources. In addition, patriarchal ideologies, community perceptions of gender roles, gender-based violence and religion also impacted access to microfinance resources. On the other hand, lack of assets for collateral, access to information, gender division of labour in households, high interest rates, women’s attitude to MFI debts and short repayment periods were challenges that women faced in accessing resources. Diversion of loan and high default rates were some of the problems that MFIs face in extension of resources to women. The study concludes that gender relations influence access, control and utilisation of resources. These includes cultural expectations that dictates the power relations at the household level, lack of assets for collateral among women beneficiaries and unfriendly policies, especially for the borrowing and repayments, and interest rates.On the basis of the findings, the study recommends that: MFIs should formulate gender sensitive policies - among which is the alternative means of collateral for women to access resources; review the loan repayment period in accordance to the ability of one’s business; review the strict weekly meetings and introduce women friendly modes of information dissemination on MFI products and procedures. Further, the Government, NGOs and Civil Societies on the ground should sensitise community on gender equity and human rights using community-based structures.