A Feminist Economy

A Feminist Economy

Report on the Third RIPESS Webinar on Women and Social Solidarity Economy

Four feminist speakers, all practitioners and experts in SSE from very different backgrounds shared their reflections with us on the feminist economy from a gender perspective on SSE in this third webinar of the RIPESS open group on Women and SSE. Here is some feedback on their interventions.

Firstly we wish to thank the thirty participants from Africa, Europe, North and South America as well as those from Asia. This was an encouraging melting pot, as the Women and SSE group aims to open up the dialogue and work between women (and men) from all over the world. It plans to engage in concrete actions linked to the gender perspective in SSE. And our warm thanks too to Ethel Cote for her role as facilitator.

We sincerely hope that both the Webinar and this short report will help open up concrete paths and provide useful references. You can upload all the presentations here.

RIPESS’ objective is to both enlarge the community of exchange of practice and empower participants – especially through these exchanges – to build our vision and integrate that of a more feminist approach to SSE, based on gender perspective.

Follow us on Facebook and feel free to join our open working group and build new synergies, take part in projects with other women from around the world: info@ripess.org.

A shared framework

There was mutual agreement that SSE and the feminist economy share a common historical front against capitalism as a model that places the market, work and employment in a framework that is detrimental to the sustainable development of society.

SSE and the feminist economy clearly share a transformative political and theoretical project that impacts all spheres of society. It represents a sum of practice and vision based on the concept of the economy as a means and not an end unto itself, based on the values of justice, cooperation, reciprocity and mutual support for others, communities and the environment.

A break with hetero-patriarchal society

The feminist vision is remarkable for its strong determination to question and create change in the hetero-patriarchal societies. The gender perspective, grounded in the struggle for equality between men and women as its central tenet, constitutes on the key factors of this questioning, and of this indispensible need to evolve. As such, it is a part of the demands of SSE; but it also shows the limits. It has a very concrete approach, and the evolutions are clear (equal pay, representation in governance structures etc…). All this shows that SSE still has a long way to go.

So let us continue with the key elements of each intervention.

María Atienza – The caring economy, and inevitable lever for SSE

Maria is a member of the coordination of the feminist commission of REAS (Spanish SSE network). She is currently finishing her Masters’ thesis on the contribution of the feminist economy to SSE.

From a feminist economy point of view, Maria underlined how much our production system and the underlying markets have developed and are still maintained by the strength of the caring economy (that is largely invisible in the hetero-sexual system). This hidden part of the iceberg that has historically and socially been part of women’s domain is one of the strong demands of the feminist movement. It is an important lever within SSE as a whole. The caring economy includes domestic work, reproductive health issues, children’s education should therefore be placed at the centre of our lives and social structures.

From theory to practice, Maria described various experiences at national level in the Spanish network (REAS) as well as at local level in Madrid, Saragossa and the Basque Country. All these illustrate how the SSE networks are involved on building the feminist perspective. This change applies to their organisations, through awareness-raising activities and training, audits, protocols (such as organising events), as well as from an external perspective through increased networking and advocacy actions.

Julie Matthaei – Contributing to the feminist economy ot how to shift from inequality to solidarity

Julie is a lecturer at Wellesley College where she lectures on the political economy of gender, race and class issues as well as feminist economy. She is co-founder and Board member of the Solidarity Economy Network in the USA.

Julie introduced SSE and the feminist approach in a broader political framework by identifying the limits and lines that need to be overcome to engage in a paradigm of change that means a shift from inequality to solidarity. This R/Eevolutionary change reaches beyond the logic of domination to one of sharing, from division to solidarity, from fear to love as well as from violence to peace, emphasizes some of the flagrant inequalities that exist all over the world today (irrespective of whether they concern gender, race, class or species).

So, what is the motor that leads from inequality to solidarity, and what pathways enable feminist economy to engage in this paradigm of change? Julie identified seven:

  • The on-going questioning of our social values, practice, economy and institutions from a feminist perspective
  • Equal rights and opportunities between men and women; end all forms of sexual discrimination
  • Value what is not taken into consideration: recognise “traditional” women’s work, including children’s education, and underpaid or unpaid domestic work. Recognise feminine qualities such as sensitivity and ability to care for others.
  • Integration: through paid holidays, subsidised childcare centres and flexible working hours.
  • Reconsider the foundations of the economy: shift from a masculine mentality mainly based on profitability, hierarchy and competitiveness to one based on social responsibility; change education to include values of cooperation, self-love and care for others.
  • Exclude all kinds of oppression of women, race, class and the environment.
  • Encourage a global union of feminist movements and other solidarity-based movements to support and initiate global campaigns. This webinar and RIPESS are good examples of this!

Ada Bazan – from awareness to emancipation, and a network of Women of the World.

Ada is an expert practitioner on gender and development and has been coordinator of the Association for International Solidarity Quartiers du Monde since 2003. (she is currently based in the Rabat office in Morocco), actively involved in three continents (Latin America, Africa and Europe).

Ada shared her 15 years of experience at Quartiers du Monde (QDM), where she accompanies women ion the road to autonomy as well as young women and men. She works on 3 continents and in 9 countries. Around 4,000 people have been the beneficiaries of the 5 long-term QDM programmes.

These programmes are both participatory and pedagogical and have enabled participants to carry out gender-based audits in their work (irrespective of whether it is visible or invisible, such as domestic work), including on violence suffered by women and more generally speaking in terms of human and women’s rights.

These programmes have thus progressively empowered women and the organisations to which they belong to strengthen their social and solidarity entrepreneurship approaches (including the gender perspective) as well as in their leadership and participation in political life. QDM has noted the way in which many women progressively supported the demands based on gender perspective and included them more broadly in their values and feminist questioning (especially in Latin America).

It is worth noting that these programmes also provided the opportunity to work with women and men on the question of male hegemony and include the gender perspective in literacy activities.

All the acquired experience of Quartiers du Monde has enabled them to develop pedagogical supports such as the literacy guide based on a gender perspective, the Leadership guide based on gender perspective or the guide to social and solidarity entrepreneurship and gender perspective.

Undoubtedly one of the greatest success stories of these programmes is the creation of the Women of the World Network to share, include and raise the voice of values and feminist practice.

Ana Muñoz Guaderño – Evaluation tools to increase feminist values

Ana is a lawyer and member of the Feminist Economy Commission of XES. She currently works with Coopolis, a SSE development and promotion organisation in Barcelona.

XES, the Catalan network for SSE has focused on taking the values and practices of feminism into account in its internal management for many years, through the creation of a specific commission. This has successfully included feminist criteria in the audit tool for “social audits” that has been developed by XES. This tool measures and follows the question of feminism in the SSE sector in Catalonia and will soon be used throughout Spain. They have also created a specific tool for gender observation (available here only in Catalan http://xes.cat/comissions/economies-feministes/eina-observacio-genere/). It aims to help organisations to take gender issues into consideration in meetings, events and other activities.

This Commission was created specifically to promote feminism to SSE actors. An initial meeting of feminist movements and SEE was organised and the Commission actively participates every year in the Catalan SSE meetings of FESC.

Many challenges still remain. As Ana reminded us: “I believe that we need to insist on identifying good practice and asking questions; our demands have still not been understood, even within SSE.”

For example it is still difficult to speak about shared responsibilities, the caring economy still needs to be more widely implemented in terms of governance models.

This last intervention led to a brief discussion of how feminism needs to really be taken into consideration in SEE (over and above mere lip service). Even if there was nt full agreement, no doubt linked to the different cultural and social realities of the various participants and the countries in which they live, most agreed with Ana that “the economy can only be truly solidarity if it is feminist”.

 via RIPESS

RIPESS is a worldwide network of continental networks promoting the Social Solidarity Economy, in order to transform our economy by putting people and the planet at the center of our activities.

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