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Based on ‘Microfinance, empowerment, and Sudra women in India’. In their article ‘Microfinance and women’s empowerment: a lesson from India’, published in the November 2002 issue of Development in Practice, Fiona Leach and Shashikala Sitaram (henceforth LS) report the results of their research on an NGO project undertaken in the Karnataka State of South India-an area heavily populated by Sudra (scheduled caste) people. The project’s main objective was to empower the Sudra women working in the silk-reeling industry, by ‘transforming them from poorly paid labourers into successful independent entrepreneurs’ (p. 577). More specifically, this project was undertaken to tackle the perceived discrimination against the Sudra women: about 60 per cent of the industry’s labour force consists of women, yet very few of them are independent silk-reeling entrepreneurs. Women tend to work as paid labourers, while men manage and supervise the reeling units, largely because of restrictions on women’s access to technology, training, and credit, among other things.

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