Prabhat Kr Pal, Victor Sarkar, Kaushik Pradhan, Biman Maity, Subhajit Chakraborty, Sayak Saha and Bankim Ch Rudra
Uttar Banga Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Ratua, Malda- 732205, West Bengal,
Diverging from charity, microfinance embodies a distinct ideological imperative, meticulously tailored to uplift impoverished communities. Its primary focus is on providing targeted support for those in need. Microfinance initiatives have long been at the forefront of driving poverty reduction efforts. The underlying aspiration behind the expansion of microfinance is to empower the economically disadvantaged, steering them towards entrepreneurial pursuits by furnishing them with the necessary credit to realize their aspirations. Empowerment, a fluid and intricate process, defies straightforward quantification. For that reason, the present study is conducted in Cooch Behar and Malda district of West Bengal. A total of 100 female respondents who are members of self-help groups were included in the study. The structured interview schedule was employed for data collection, and the selection of respondents followed a purposive sampling approach. This methodology was chosen due to the interconnectedness of empowerment with social, economic, and political challenges. Spiritual, social, political, and health factors collectively form the foundation of the empowerment measurement process. The term "empowerment" encapsulates autonomous decision-making, self-identification, and resource utilization. Empowerment, as documented in literature, is a multi-faceted concept with the capacity for assessment across various dimensions. Microfinance programs are primarily tailored to benefit women, acknowledging them as the primary target demographic. This credit amount not only helps poor women to grow economically but also improves gender equality, the status of women within the family, their health, and their education level. In the realm of development, empowerment has become a prevalent term, particularly centred around mitigating poverty and integrating marginalized women into the political sphere. Microfinance has demonstrated its social and financial advantages for women, emerging as a promising avenue for fostering women's empowerment.