Levels of empowerment: Marketers and microenterprise-lending NGOs in Apopa and Nejapa, El Salvador

  • S. Cosgrove (2002). Latin American Perspectives, 48-65
  • Abstract: High population density, an extensive informal economy, and diminishing foreign aid have made El Salvador an attractive site for microenterpriselending programs. My research in urban El Salvador observing microcredit nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)1 and the microentrepreneurs they serve between 1994 and 1997 led me to conclude that I had to broaden my understanding of empowerment to include other actors in the development process. I have discovered that measuring the impact of NGO-implemented programs has to be analyzed across a number of fields of power (Binford, 1998: Roseberry, 1994). Loan clients2 are not the only groups to benefit from these programs. Indeed, my research shows that the NGOs themselves and local municipalities can gain greater autonomy and increased access to resources, contacts, and power from this kind of programming. Small loans are important for Salvadoran urban marketers struggling to make ends meet in the face of structural adjustment policies, cuts in state-sponsored subsidies, decreasing development aid, and continued social unrest, especially in urban areas. For many marketers, microcredit means the chance to break out of the vicious circle of debt that borrowing from loan sharks entails.3 In the case of El Salvador's urban poor, it is not a question of which microenterprise-lending model best serves marketers; different models will be appropriate depending on the circumstances and the needs of marketers. Rather, the multiple and often competing agendas of local development stakeholders must be analyzed, and empowerment has to be unpacked to reveal the different levels on which it has been facilitated.
  • Theme: Finance
  • Keywords: empowerment, marketing, microenterprise, nongovernmental organization, power relations, El Salvador
  • Reference type: Journal Article
  • Geographic location: El Salvador, Central America, Global North
  • Quality:
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