_sunsetsun.jpgA new United Nations loan of over $30 million seeks to boost the social and economic power of rural women in India’s largest pocket of poverty.

Women from an estimated 108,000 poor rural households will benefit from the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) loan, which aims to give women in the Mid-Gangetic Plains of northern India easier access to microfinance and business development services.

The Women’s Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme, which is expected to invigorate more than 6,000 self-help groups, and increase productivity and incomes by creating market-based businesses, will cost around $52 million.

Women in the Mid-Gangetic Plains experience deeper deprivation than elsewhere in India because of strong patriarchy and rigid caste divisions. As well as increasing access to financial institutions, the program will encourage women’s increased participation in local government.

The loan agreement was signed Friday in Rome by Shri Arif Shahid Khan, the Indian Ambassador to Italy, and IFAD President Lennart Båge.

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