Microfinance and women's well-being: Evidence from South Africa
Women living in South Africa's rural areas are very poor in money-metric terms and, at the same time, are vulnerable in terms of several other dimensions of poverty. This makes them extremely vulnerable to any crisis, whether illness, drought, or death in the family. The government acknowledges the suffering of women-headed households especially in rural areas and has responded with a range of development interventions. While these interventions, which include social assistance grants, basic service delivery, and free water, electricity, schooling, and health services, certainly improve the livelihoods of the rural poor, they do not, collectively, seem to improve the standard of living of the most vulnerable people in these marginalized areas. Evidence suggests that microfinance, delivered according to a particular methodology in the rural South African context, does improve the livelihood security and well-being of recipients. This article addresses the poverty situation in South Africa and evaluates the success of the Small Enterprise Foundation in improving the well-being of the poorest women in the rural areas of South Africa.
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