ACCESSING MICROFINANCE THROUGH FINANCIAL LITERACY : A Case Study of Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s Operations in Kenya
Abstract: In 2015, United Nations implemented seventeen Sustainable Development Goals along with 169 sub-targets with the ambition to transform the world through achieving sustainable development and, hence annihilate poverty. In light of the foregoing, both authoritative and non-governmental entities accentuated the significance of ‘financial inclusion’ which, in turn, has developed into an evangelical advocacy reminiscent of the extensive publicity that microfinance received at the end of last century which, in turn, has led to an unprecedented passion among philanthrocapitalists, transnational corporations, and other benefactors to financially and socially assist the impoverished. In order to attain the objectives enforced by the United Nations, it is essential to elevate the people located at the bottom of the social hierarchy by minimizing the wealth and gender inequalities that exist. By providing women with equal access to education, job opportunities, financial resources, and representation in economic and political decision- making processes, both domestic and international prosperity will follow. Upon providing access to microfinancial services, microfinance institutions and similar entities have developed into essential tools for empowering women. Academic evidence has previously illustrated a positive association between the probability of accessing these services and the possession of an adequate understanding of economic knowledge – financial literacy. However, the underlying mechanisms of financial literacy and their possible connections to the access of microfinance are complex processes that often have been neglected in current academia. Hence, the purpose of this study is to determine the significant factors of financial literacy and examine how they interplay with the access to microfinancial activities. Accordingly, the objective of this paper is to answer the following research question. How does financial literacy favor women’s access to microfinancial services in developing countries? In order to obtain a greater insight into the subject matter, this paper utilizes a single-case study of Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s operations in Kenya. The empirical findings presented in this qualitative study were collected through semi-structured interviews with managers working on both a local and nationwide level. Upon analyzing the findings, the authors found support in the argument that it is essential for an individual to be financially literate in order to obtain microfinancial services such as microcredit, microinsurance, and loans in kind. Although external forces in the form of social capital, social learning, and dynamic capabilities do not impact the access to microfinance directly, the empirical evidence indicated that an indirect influence on financial literacy exists. A myriad of previous academia has gravitated to emphasize the correlation between financial literacy and women empowerment rather than justifying the association through the examination of the underlying mechanisms. Hence, this thesis should provide valuable acumen about the elements of financial literacy and how they influence the microfinancial machinery as well as women’s socio-cultural and economic empowerment.
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