So rather than commenting on the usual; women are still oppressed under capitalism, or the latest outrage of censorship in the name of National Security, or the stupidity of the American right in returning us to the bad old days of backstreet abortions. I will leave that to others.
I thought I would give us some good news about womens struggles for economic liberation.
Because that's what its all about. When women can earn a living under capitalism, they become individuals free of the chattel ownership of fathers, husbands and families. It's what makes capitalism revolutionary.
And this is why the humanistic values accorded to liberalism/capitalism are seen as a challenge to patriarchy. Women need to earn their own bread and need the time to appreciate the roses too.
In the developing world, Africa in particular, where the last vestiges of the marketplace are not dominated by global capitalist corporations, micro-loans and micro-economics are creating a peoples bank ,as Prodhoun called it, a credit union culture of lenders and producers.
It is a model of capitalist economic development that is missing in Welfare Reform in the West, that simply kicks mothers off welfare and tells them to get a job. And it is a model for capitalist economic development in depressed economic zones such our First Nations. It certainly is better than the alternative, the expansion of gaming establishments on reserves.
The real power of revolution has always been in the hands of women, who after all are the real majority in society. And thus are the majority of the proletariat.
As these articles show women need unions, associations and cooperatives AND micro-credit to be able to advance. And ironically in India it has often been in provinces under the control of the Communist Party that these models of economic self governance have been promoted and sucesseded.
One we met with was the Self Employed Women Association (SEWA),
a union for the most oppressed workers in India-- women working largely in the informal sector of self-employment or home-based contract work. Started in 1972, it now has almost 700,000 members in India, a third of them outside Gujurat. Because these workers often have no formal employer or an employer who can easily disappear, much of their organizing is based on self-help-- organizing cooperatives, creating benefits funds for health and other forms of social insurance, and seeking to enforce legal rights against contractors defrauding workers. Part of the goal is to give these women workers the economic means to escape both oppression from poverty itself and from the often violence-based oppression women suffer within the gender inequality of their family life.
Now we have a cow, we have a rice mill, and we have money. Before, we had nothing. Before, we ate at most once a day. Our clothes were torn. Our children couldn't go to school because they didn't have proper clothes or food or books. We couldn't leave our homes or participate in the village government. My husband never bothered to discuss anything with me. Today, if we buy a piece of machinery or a piece of land, we, husband and wife, buy it together and keep it together. Now, our husbands help us with our work and we help them with theirs. And they help us in raising our children.”
--Bahanur Begum, participant in Uttaran, credit and training program in Bangladesh
New Book on Third World Microcredit
Via Zvi Galor on Worker-Owned Co-op list. Reaching the Poor With Microcredit: The Missing Link, by Abono Humfred Mbah Awanka of the University of Dschang in Cameroon. Galor comments:
The book has a very interesting survey of the existing MF industry of today. What is the situation in the rural Africa of today, and possible ways to do better. It is a very important tool to scholars, to practitioners and to the big public who wish to learn more about our contemporary problematic situation regarding poverty and as to how to be able to improve the situation and to eradicate poverty from our society.
"It turns out that poor rural women are better credit risks than many companies, meaning that default rates are low. Accion [A major microfinance find ]reports a historical repayment rate of 97 per cent. No Accion or Calvert investors have lost money to date."
by Farhan Haq
United Nations, Sep 3 (IPS) -- Poor women today were gaining greater access to savings and credit mechanisms worldwide, according to a survey of more than 900 microcredit organisations that serve 22 million clients.
The 925 programmes reporting to the survey, conducted by the Washington-based Microcredit Summit Campaign, said that more than 12.5 million of their clients came from groups that qualified among the countries' poorest.
Further, 74 percent of the poorest clients of the 40 largest microcredit programmes involved in the survey were women.Beneath the Surface
Microcredit and Women's Empowerment
By Abdul Bayes
Once the beginning of the microcredit programmes that mobilise and organise women at the grassroots levels and provide access to supportive services, the issue of women's empowerment started to constitute the cornerstone of any discussions on planned interventions for poverty alleviation. Following the foot steps of the Grameen Bank's minimalist credit strategy, a number of NGOs in Bangladesh (e.g. BRAC, ASA) have been targeting rural women hitherto been subjected to socio-economic subjugation of different types. The unique aspect of such a strategy is not its financial intermediation of credit for the poor but also its social intermediation. Needless to mention here, perhaps, is the fact that the viability of the former intermediation is ensured by the latter intermediation.
"Green earth, women's power, human liberation": women in peasant movements in India.
PIP: The experience of 2 peasant women's movements in India's state of Maharashtra--Stri Mukti Sangharsh and Shetkari Mahila Aghadi--highlights the potential power of women in resisting capitalist exploitation of peasant and forest-dwelling communities. The former organization is the women's branch of a movement that is resisting the ecological destruction and displacement of peasants and tribal people resulting from development projects such as dam construction; the latter addresses the demand for fair prices for agricultural produce and inequities created by a market economy. Both are mass-based, self-financed people's movements unconnected with any political party. Although women are under-represented in the formal decision-making bodies of the parent organizations, they are struggling to become a central force in the development of alternative technology and agriculture. In 1990, Stri Mukti Sangharsh activists devised a new slogan--green earth, women's power, human liberation--summarizing this process. Similarly, Shetkari Mahila Aghadi calls upon women to monopolize political power and runs all-women panels in district council elections. These campaigns have challenged women's exclusion from ownership of land in spite of laws granting property rights and placed the issues of women's health and nutrition on the political agenda. Moreover, peasant women have played a leading role in the current experimentation with energy-recycling, regenerative, low-input agricultural development. Together, these developments may provide Indian women with the power to recover their former centrality in agricultural decision-making and production.
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: Bread and Roses! Bread and Roses!
As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.
As we go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too.
As we go marching, marching, we bring the greater days,
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses, bread and roses.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
hearts starve as well as bodies; bread and roses, bread and roses
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