The role of NGO in the area of women’s empowerment has been a matter of intense debate and controversy. Research on microfinance provided by NGO reveals a paradox, for it has both positive and negative impacts on women’s empowerment. Against this background, this article sheds light on the impact of microfinance program, of Association for Community Development (ACD), a local NGO of Rajshahi District more popularly known by its acronym ACD, on one particular indicator of women’s social empowerment: decision making agency. Unlike other research papers on the topic that focuses on microfinance and women’s economic empowerment, the research paper goes beyond the financial or economic perspective of evaluating the impact of microfinance on women’s empowerment rather it explores at the social dimension of empowerment. The account is based on a qualitative study that enabled the researcher to understand the women’s realities and the way these are perceived by women who participated in the research. Primary data was collected from selected women clients of ACD to understand whether and how women's decision making agency was achieved following in the course of their participation in microfinance program of ACD. The paper argues that microfinance can be a useful empowerment tool to improve women’s decision making agency, however, women’s degree of involvement in decision making depends on the categories of decisions to be made both within and beyond family matters. The findings reveal that while all women showed improved participation in decision making in minor decisions, in case of major decision making, major shift from male dominated decision making to more shared role in decision making was found in some families while in some other families shared role was found in disguise of male dominance.
Key Words: Women's Empowerment, microfinance, ACD, Decision making