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Improving access to capital for low wealth households is a vital part of any rural development strategy, especially one designed to rectify long standing rural inequality and to generate broadly-based growth. In addition, there may be further benefits from specifically targeting the capital needs of rural and low-income women. Most credit programs oriented to increase access to credit for poor households are based on a "gender neutral" approach. However, unless specifically targeted, women tend to have inferior access to financial resources than do men. This differential deserves special consideration from policy makers given presumed social welfare and productivity gains to be had from specifically enhancing women's productive capacity within the household. This paper introduces the rationale for enhancing women's access to capital, documents the particular factors that constrain women's credit access from conventional financial intermediaries, and presents a review of the international experience with women-targeted credit programs. Finally, it reviews the position of rural women in Colombia with an emphasis on the position of women within the Colombian financial sector.


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