Credit programs, women's empowerment, and contraceptive use in rural Bangladesh

Stud Fam Plann. 1994 Mar-Apr;25(2):65-76.


This article presents findings of research addressing the question of how women's status affects fertility. The effects on contraceptive use of women's participation in rural credit programs and on their status or level of empowerment were examined. A woman's level of empowerment is defined here as a function of her relative physical mobility, economic security, ability to make various purchases on her own, freedom from domination and violence within her family, political and legal awareness, and participation in public protests and political campaigning. The main finding is that participation in both of the credit programs studied, those of Grameen Bank and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), is positively associated with women's level of empowerment. A positive effect on contraceptive use is discernible among both participants and nonparticipants in Grameen Bank villages. Participation in BRAC does not appear to affect contraceptive use.

PIP: In late 1992, in rural Bangladesh, 1305 married women were interviewed to determine whether financial credit affects contraceptive use and to examine its effects on women's level of empowerment. Some women were members of Grameen Bank or the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), both of which lend money to the landless rural poor, They attended regular meetings, which increased their mobility and access to information. Other women lived in villages where Grameen Bank operates but were not members. The last group were women living in villages not served by Grameen Bank (i.e., comparison villages), and who had limited public mobility. Grameen Bank members were more likely to use contraceptives than those in comparison villages (59% vs. 43%; p .01). Nonmembers in Grameen Bank Villages also used contraceptives more often than did women in comparison villages (48% vs. 43%; p .05). Even though BRAC members used contraceptives slightly more than did women in comparison villages, the differences was not significant (47% vs. 43%). The Grameen Bank stressed credit more than did BRAC and required members to perform membership rituals, which likely accounted for the significantly higher contraceptive use among Grameen Bank members and those living in Grameen Bank villages. In fact, the regimentation and chanting reinforced the bank's 16 decisions, 1 of which was to have a small family. The empowerment score was a composite of the woman's economic security, mobility, ability to make small and larger purchases and major decisions, subjection to domination and violence, political/legal awareness, and participation in protests campaigns. Grameen Bank membership (p .01), BRAC membership (p .01), and being a nonmember living in a Grameen Bank village (p .05) all contributed to women's empowerment when contribution to family support was considered, suggesting that credit programs strengthen women's economic roles. These findings show that credit programs modeled on the Grameen Bank strengthen women's economic roles and promote women's empowerment, thereby accelerating a fertility transition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bangladesh
  • Developing Countries*
  • Family Planning Services / trends*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gender Identity
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty / trends*
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Psychosocial Deprivation
  • Rural Population*
  • Social Values
  • Women's Rights / trends*