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Access, Use and Repayment of Micro-credit in Kerala -An Analysis
Kerala is the South Asian leader in achievements in women's education and health, especially reproductive health. Nine out of every ten women can read and write and the State produces the largest number of women post-graduates in India. But, Kerala is a society where patriarchal values are so deep-rooted restraining involvement of women in social and political spheres. Acute unemployment among women makes the matters worse. While the total work participation increased during the last decade (Census 2001) in both urban and rural areas of the State, in the case of women, a reverse trend has set in. The female work participation rate decreased from 15.9 per cent in 1991 to 15.3 per cent in 2001 (2001 census). Moreover, poverty has become a serious evil both in the rural and urban subsets of the population of Kerala. Micro-credit programmes targeting women have been a welcome corrective to the above neglect of women's productive role. The present study can justify its significance on the ground that there is now mounting hope that micro-credit can be a large scale poverty alleviation tool and also an empowerment mechanism especially for the rural households. Moreover, in the present day specific situation of Kerala characterised by rampant unemployment, falling income from cultivation, agony experienced by the lease cultivators, escalating costs of health needs, increased education costs, and the steady withdrawal of State from public sphere, the entry of micro-credit was a safety valve in providing livelihood to the poor. Noticeably, banks and other financial institutions too are shedding their old reluctance to lend to the poor, and are looking to tap the expertise of micro-credit groups to create a new market. In this context, the present study is a pragmatic effort to review the characteristics of beneficiaries and to assess the access, use and repayment of micro-credit by them.
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