The Empoerment of Women‟s Through Microfinance to Reduce Poverty in Sierra Leone “Case Study Sierra Leone”
Microfinance institution currently promoted as a key strategy for simultaneously addressing both women empowerment and poverty mitigation in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone success as addressing its developmental challenges of improving the socioeconomic livelihood of its people is closely tied its private sector. The private sector that should create the jobs needed to alleviate poverty and the services and industries that should lead to inclusive socioeconomic development. Yet the private sector remains small, dominated by small enterprises who are engaged in largely informal activities. The growth of these enterprises and improvement’s in the majority of Sierra Leoneans poor is hampered by their limited access to formal financial services, such as deposit and credit facilities and other financial services. This lack of access to formal financial services reflects many factors, but largely has to do with the costs to clients to interact with formal financial institutions and the cost to the financial institutions to serve the poor clients. Considering that the poor are the majority of the population and the informal sector is an important part of Sierra Leone economies, urgent action is needed. This has attracted interest in mainstreaming microfinance as a strategy to increase the poor’s use and access to financial services. While there are still doubts about the ability of microfinance to deliver poverty reduction, evidence abounds with the benefits of microfinance outweighing the costs. Many development experts now agree that microfinance can economically empower individuals and microenterprises and enable them to contribute to and benefit from economic development in a variety of ways. These include through helping them to acquire capital to undertake investments, integrating them into the economic systems of their countries and increasing their incomes; ensuring the creation or improvement of human capital through better education nutrition and health care, insurance and pensions in order to smooth their incomes and protect themselves against economic shocks, and better manage their enterprises and financial situations in country.
However, there has been a hot debate on the effectiveness of microfinance in empowering Sierra Leoneans women across the country. In fact, this research was conducted to analyze the empowerment of women through microfinance to reduce poverty in Sierra Leone. A purposive non-probability sampling technique was utilized in a 200 sample-size selection of female microfinance customers from Freetown, Bo, Makeni, Kenema, Kono and Portloko and other district in Sierra Leone. For this research, excel and SPSS Statistical tools were used to analyze the data and the ordered probity model was used as the estimation model. Evident in this research is a statistically significant positive relationship between microfinance and women empowerment, for both economic and social but such relationship is dependent on marital status and educational level of the women with age having no controlling effect. Nevertheless, it is also evident in this study that women encounter many problems in accessing microfinance services of which high interest rate is paramount. Recommendations have been given on how microfinance outreach programmes could be enriched especially among the rural women since enhanced microfinance accessibility could be a perfect tool to accelerate economic and social empowerment of women in Sierra Leone. A face-to-face survey was conducted during 2018, interviewing 200 women households in different locations in Sierra Leone. Descriptive statistics and econometric modeling were used to achieve the objectives. The empirical results indicate that borrowers of microfinance have greater control over their own savings. The regression outcome also exposes that microcredit has a positive and significant role on enhancing participation in household decision making process and women’s legal awareness. This research suggested that microfinance institution providers in Sierra Leone should be encouraged to review their program planning and redesign loan products by putting more emphasis on higher income group women in the country.
Keywords - Microfinance, Empowerment, Unemployment, Economic Development in Sierra Leone,