Journal Article

Who gets credit? The gendered division of microfinance programs in Egypt

Microcredit is a poverty alleviation strategy strongly associated with gender inequality and the feminization of poverty. In Egypt, microcredit operates within two major models. The economic survival model targets a female clientele with very small loan sizes and mainly group lending mechanisms. The business enhancement model primarily targets a not-so-poor clientele. A gap emerges where there are hardly any lending mechanisms addressing poorer men. I argue in this paper that the lopsided focus on providing microfinance services within the economic survival model to poor women and the exclusion of poor men constitutes a myopic poverty alleviation strategy that can actually oppress women rather than empower them. It is also a strategy that excludes a significant proportion of the poor, namely poor men who primarily work within the rubrics of the informal economy. The paper is based on fieldwork in rural Upper Egypt and in two urban squatter areas in Cairo.