This article describes an NGO project intended to empower scheduled caste women working in the silk-reeling industry in India through the provision of microfinance. It documents the impact that the project had on their economic and social status over a period of time and highlights the negative consequences of excluding male relatives from playing any meaningful role. It suggests ways in which the project might have been made more male inclusive while still empowering women. At the same time, it acknowledges that even if the men’s hostility to the project had been overcome, the women’s micro enterprises were unlikely to have been viable commercially. This is because the project insisted that the women operate as a group in what was a high-risk area of economic activity, with no clear strategy as to how their work could be sustained.
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