The Winnipeg Credit Circle program, addressing gender-specific barriers to self-employment and creating an environment for transformatory potential

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Reynolds, Brigid
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This thesis is a qualitative analysis of the Winnipeg Credit Circle program from a feminist perspective. The Credit Circle program is a Community Economic Development (CED) strategy, based on the peer lending model developed by the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. The program comprises three primary components: business skills training support and access to credit. It is intended to assist low-income people (the majority of participants are women) to take greater control over the economic and employment aspects of their lives. There are an increasing number of these types of programs around the world because of the 'success' of the Grameen Bank; therefore, it is considered important to determine whether the programs are fulfilling their stated objectives generally and in the North American context. Three primary research questions guided the data collection and analysis: Is the Winnipeg Credit Circle fulfilling its mandate? Are program participants meeting their own goals for business and employment? and Do the Winnipeg Credit Circle and the peer lending model have the transformatory potential to move beyond fulfilling women's practical needs to fulfilling strategic gender interests? In conclusion, the program is providing the opportunity for women to make changes in their lives. But whether these changes will be sustained in the long-term remains to be seen and requires that program providers monitor participants' activities into the future. If program providers see the program as fitting within CED as an alternative economic paradigm; the principles must be incorporated into the organizational structure and the education curriculum. If program providers define the Winnipeg Credit Circle as a business development strategy assisting individuals to start a small business then they appear to be meeting this goal. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)