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barriers for the poorest.

The second constraint is that the system of group

responsibility, although effective in many ways to overcome transaction costs that arise when dealing with large numbers works against the inclusion of the poorest. The group screens out

the of the

problems of poor clients, poorest from

the time of group formation constraint is concerned with

because of their high financial the personnel management of

risks.

The third

the

micro

credit

institutions. Instead of emphasis on members, quantitative results such

conscientisation or social awareness of the as loan recovery rates have increasingly

become the central concern, especially in the micro credit programmes tend members instead.

at the field level. As a result, field workers to shun the poorest and admit non-poor

The tendency of exclusion of the poorest has an important bearing on women, for a woman without male family members of active working age is likely to be left out of these programmes. The proportion of female-headed households varies in the different population studies. An official estimate suggests that around a tenth of households are headed by women (BBS 1999). The extensive poverty survey conducted by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies in 1990/91 estimated that 9 percent of rural households were managed or headed by women (Hamid 1995) 13. Others take the view that the actual proportion could be around

20 to 30 corroborate households

percent (Asian Development Bank 2001: 19).

These studies

the than

view that poverty is more severe among female-headed male-headed households. Female-headed households have a

lower

number

of

income-earning

males

than

male-headed

households.

The

income

level

of

female-headed

households

was

only

55

percent

of

that

of

the

13 Hamid’s definition of female headed households includes both de jure and de facto female-head households. De jure households are those with no males over 18 years of age present in the home. The women household heads include widowed, divorced and abandoned women. De fact households are those where the male head of household normally works and lives outside the village and there are no close male relatives between the ages of 18 and 70 living as permanent members of the household (pp. 178-179).

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