Microfinance as Ambivalence: Kilimanjaro Women Experiences of Capitalist Development

Department or Program

Interdisciplinary Studies

Second Department or Program



Worldwide, microfinance has gained popularity as a way of fighting poverty and enhancing gender equality. By providing women with access to small loans, microfinance is expected to enable women to generate an income and to initiate their own economic and socio-political empowerment. This paper questions the received wisdom that the benefits of microfinance start with poverty reduction and are subsequently followed by social emancipation. The focus in such interventions on the independent, entrepreneurial citizen suggests not only new ways to generate economic growth and sustainable development, but an important recalibration of the repressive social relations thought to be at the root of women’s persistent ‘under-development’. I explore the economic as well as the social impacts of microfinance through an ethnographic study of three women from Bomang’ombe in Kilimanjaro Tanzania as they undertake a range of microfinance sponsored income-generating settings, and negotiate the consequences of the new subjectivities on which the independent, entrepreneurial citizen is based. I find that economic success and social emancipation has come at a cost for the three women included in this study. The cost of the material gain and social emancipation include family challenges that wives endure with their in laws, as well as been ostracized by their communities for pursuing male dominated businesses.

Level of Access

Restricted: Archival Copy [No Access]

First Advisor

Eames, Elizabeth

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Archival Copy

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