University of Sussex
Pane Solis, Juan Carlos.pdf (17.33 MB)

How does empowerment happen? Exploring the process of empowerment through narratives of women who participated in microfinance-plus programmes in Paraguay

Download (17.33 MB)
posted on 2023-06-10, 03:49 authored by Juan Carlos Pane Solis
This dissertation explores the complex process of empowerment of women who participated in microfinance-plus programmes in Paraguay. Empowerment is now a mainstream development concern and is often expressed as the desired outcome of many development interventions around the world (Batliwala, 2007; Kabeer, 2018). A prominent view within the ever expanding literature is that empowerment is a complex process (Rowlands, 1997; Kabeer 1999; Townsend et al., 1999; Cornwall, 2016). This complexity, however, poses a significant challenge to building empirical understanding within specific contexts, leading to conceptual development without empirical grounding (McGee and Pettit, 2019; Rowlands, 2016). In this research, I aim to understand the process of empowerment by inquiring into the life experiences of women who participated in microfinance-plus programmes in Paraguay. Microfinance-plus (MFI+) provides financial services (vocational training, technical assistance, product design), as well as non-financial services (increased access to education, health, and mentorship). My case study is based on microfinance-plus programmes developed by the largest NGO in Paraguay, Fundación Paraguaya. The objective is to address the following theoretical and empirical gaps about the process of empowerment: a) the role of context and how it might shape the process of empowerment; b) how resources enable or constrain this process; c) how participants experience changes in power, and; d) how microfinance-plus interventions contribute to the process of empowerment. This dissertation seeks to meet these theoretical and empirical gaps through a mixed-method study combining narrative data of the experience of (dis)empowerment through five Group Dramas - a performative narrative method - with 489 micro-narratives of experiences collected and analysed using the SenseMaker method. My overarching argument is that context plays a central role in the process of empowerment by showing how it allows and constrains the availability of material, human, and social resources, and enables windows of opportunities for changes in power. The resulting changes in power enable women to make meaningful life choices to improve their lives.


File Version

  • Published version



Department affiliated with

  • Institute of Development Studies Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Theses)


    No categories selected