CASE 5: ABIBATA - LOANS AND SOCIAL STATUS

Weak individuals may also want to join the groups just to enhance their status in the village and spend the money unwisely, making material purchases for their family in order to give the impression to others that her investments had been a success, which of course they are not. The following example illustrates how this plays itself out in practice.

Abibata describes how taking the loan helped offset having to sell one of her six sheep, which otherwise would have been necessary due to debts incurred by food shortages she experienced last year. The loan has not led her to become 'really busy' as hoped, though certainly has helped with providing pocket money and an occasional profit. This she has used on purchasing around 25 shiny, flowered, enamelled bowls of different sizes and several plastic preying mats, which she displays with great pleasure, and which she lends out for social events. She reasons that this is a good way of controlling the loan. She explains that she knew most of the group members beforehand, and everybody encouraged and financially supported each other through the process of self-selection, though she also knew a number of people who wanted to join but couldn’t fulfil these demands.

Abibata’s story reflects that she had two principle objectives for joining the group. The first was to develop social relations; the second was to control the money.

Developing social relations
It is clear that Abibata received economic help from friends in order for her to join the group and although she had also obviously experienced some degree of success, her material purchases were made from the loan money in order to exhibit signs of visible success to other people in the village and by lending these out, she could show her thanks to the group. It is also a statement of her success to others who had not managed to secure membership, and it demonstrated that she enjoyed strong social support in the loan group.
The interesting aspect of this case, compared to the aims of micro finance, is that loan group membership was based on enhancing social ties, rather than being a means to procure income growth, or sustain present household levels. It can also be a statement of her success to others in the village who had not managed to join a group and it demonstrated that she enjoyed strong social support in the loan group. In these examples, a loan is not undertaken to procure income growth but to build social ties or sustain present household levels.

Controlling the money
She says that the material purchases are additionally a good way of ‘controlling the money,’ thereby lessening the chance of it being spent by her husband. That she wasn’t that economically successful however, was revealed by her saying that she hadn’t become that busy, which many informants employed as a means of quantifying the level of their own perceived success. Here it can be said that she has been empowered but there is no income growth taking place. There can be several unprofitable motives behind spending the loan money on material consumption. The material purchases are certainly a way of ‘controlling the money,’ thereby lessening the chance of it being spent by a careless husband. The implication to draw from this was that a good portion of the loan can be used for material purchases to symbolise the individual’s social standing, and which also legitimised and the relations she relied upon.