Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Jodi Kaufmann, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Phill Gagne, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kadir Demir, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Rachana Bhatt, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Regine Haardoerfer, Ph.D.


The assumptions underlying the relationships between microfinance and women’s empowerment are typically rooted in a financial paradigm, wherein the prevailing belief is that increases in economic resources necessarily lead to increases in women’s empowerment. This results in a conceptual erasure of the multi-dimensionality of empowerment and disregards the influences that microfinance has on women that extend beyond the economic sphere. This study explored how 6 women in Mali perceive and experience empowerment in relation to their participation in a microfinance program using photovoice. Photovoice is a qualitative methodology wherein participants document, reflect on, and represent their community and experiences using a specific photographic technique. The photographic collection that the women generated, along with their narratives and oral testimonies, suggest that empowerment is a complex construct that includes, yet extends beyond the financial paradigm. The findings of this indicate that microfinance has positively and negatively impacted various dimensions of the women’s perceived empowerment. At the conclusion of the project, the women participated in a forum and initiated policy changes at the microfinance institution with which they are affiliated.