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ABSTRACT. Poverty and urbanization are highly gendered, with women constituting the poorest of the poor in most developing countries. Women’s participation in economic, social, political, and cultural agendas remains a challenge. In Ethiopia, gender inequality and dis-empowerment have been rampant in all parts of the country attributable to the socio-cultural exclusions and economic problems prevailing in the society. Therefore, the study aims to explore women’s economic empowerment through micro finance program and assess factors affecting women’s participation in the program in Southern Ethiopia. Both cross-sectional survey design and case study design were adapted. Specifically, concurrent mixed research approach was applied to generate both qualitative and quantitative data. Household survey questionnaire was used for generating quantitative data. Key informant interview, in-depth interview of cases, focus group discussions and observation were methods for qualitative information. The major quantitative techniques used for data analysis include frequency tables, chi-square test, and Spearman rank correlation. Description, classification, and connections (three key strategies) of qualitative analysis techniques were applied to process and analyze qualitative information. In spite of barriers to join micro finance program, beneficiary women were able to achieve positive economic impact (economic empowerment). On the other hand, multitude of institutional, personal, and contextual factors became bottlenecks where institutional related factors were the major challenges to women's participation in the micro finance program. Revisiting client selection criteria; promoting group based credit program; enhancing capacity building trainings on business management; scaling up best practices and upholding experience sharing mechanisms between participants and non-participants women are suggested to tackle the major pitfalls of the program on women’s empowerment. pp. 108–126

Keywords: micro finance; economic empowerment; obstacles; Southern Ethiopia
JEL Codes: G21; P46

Befikadu Esayas
Addis Ababa University
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Degefa Tolossa
Addis Ababa University
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