By Amali Wedagedara (Sri Lanka)
A collective of women in Hingurakgoda, Sri Lanka protested non-violently for 55 days against a once praised model for community development: Microfinance. The idea behind microfinance is that financially marginalized communities could receive necessary capital to start a business and work toward financial independence.
Yet the interest rates for these microloans are often extremely high and nearly impossible to pay, and vast numbers of the nearly 140 million borrowers worldwide (80% of whom are women) are now trapped in over 124 billion USD in microfinance debt.
In this month’s “Voices from the South,” we hear the story of the women in Sri Lanka who are protesting against deepening indebtedness, tightening pressure from microfinance and finance companies, and the neglect of the government. Amali Wedagedara (Sri Lanka) paints a picture about why women are protesting, how these women are connecting with others trapped in development debt in other parts of the globe, and the collective’s shared vision for a new development model in the Global South. Amali Wedagedara (Sri Lanka) is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa. She explores the political economy of household debt.