Empowering Female IDPs in Nagorno-Karabakh

By Julie Snyder

The current Syrian refugee crisis has caused alarm across the globe, leading to political, economic, and security challenges. While the international community decides how to handle this problem, it is important to consider the next stages of the Syrian crisis, particularly for women. The case of Nagorno-Karabakh presents a grim vision of what could lie ahead if Syria lapses into a frozen conflict- a situation where violence has ceased, ending the “hot” conflict, but there has not been success in reaching a satisfying peace agreement.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a small strip of land internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan though governed as a de facto yet unrecognized state plagued by violence since the 1990s. Due to its geostrategic position and rich natural resources, Nagorno-Karabakh has been home to conflict for hundreds of years; most recently, violence erupted in the late 1980s when Armenia claimed the land from Azerbaijan, leaving over 120,000 casualties and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in its wake. Failed negotiations over the past few decades have left claims on Nagorno-Karabakh hotly contested, leaving hundreds of thousands forbidden from returning to their homes and producing no permanent peace agreements.

Location_Nagorno-Karabakh2

Despite intervention from a variety of development agencies and implementers, including USAID, the Armenian government, and NGOs, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh face the obstacles of frozen conflict daily with little possibility of improved livelihoods in their future. Currently, there are over 597,000 IDPs in Nagorno-Karabakh residing in camps only miles from their homes. These IDPs face a number of issues despite significant government and international assistance, and the aid of NGOs. Their primary concerns include “inadequate housing, precarious livelihoods, gender-based violence, segregated education… and IDP’s limited participation in decisions that affect them.” Continue reading

Does Microfinance Increase Women’s Profits and Incomes?

By Helen Moser

The assumption of many Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) is that providing microfinance to women is not only a social imperative – it is also one that may yield higher returns to capital, as women are typically more credit-constrained than men due to their limited access to formal financial services.  Women in developing countries are 20 percent less likely than men to have access to formal credit. Additionally, women tend to be poorer than men on average and have less collateral to offer.

MFIs rose in popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and many MFIs like the Grameen Bank began strategies of lending primarily to women that continue today. Over 80 percent of the poorest MFI clients worldwide (those who live on less than $1.25/day) are women.  MFIs and their supporters often claim women make better use of loaned or granted funds than men do. But in actuality, microfinance may not be an effective solution to raise women’s business profits from microenterprise, nor their incomes. Continue reading