Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation
By Angelica Reitsma and Raihana Diani
Solidaritas Perempuan (SP) and the Institute for Women’s Empowerment (IWE) organized a workshop on “Sustaining Women’s Leadership to Build a Social and Solidarity Economy,” which was held in Bali from the 30th of November until the 2nd of December 2013, in anticipation of the start of the People’s Action Against the WTO, that opened on 3 December in Nusa Dua, Bali.
The 3-day workshop, attended by 25 participants consisting of IWE partner organizations and SP communities, aimed to increase their understanding of and capacity to develop initiatives reflecting the perspectives of a ‘Social Solidarity Economy (SSE)’, which, contrary to the present money and profits economy, is based on the concern and solidarity with peoples’ needs and just, democratic and participatory processes through the whole supply chain.
Members of the Serikat Petani Indonesia in a mobilization against the WTO (Credit: SMAA).
Women’s efforts to gain access to and obtain control over rights concerning economic resources have been marginalized due to the development of a myriad of economic policies, which focus on the global market with the main intention of gaining profit, as well as global economic trade organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), which systematically dominates the market and monopolizes profits.
Governments lack the ability to fulfill peoples’ economic, social, cultural and worker’s rights and women are left unprotected and without a decent livelihood due to the persistent gender discrimination that deprives women of ownership or, at least, access to necessary economic resources. The impact of this situation is that many women are eventually “forced” to resort to work as ‘informal workers’ - domestic workers (at home or abroad), farm laborers or sub-contracted industry workers. The unregulated and unprotected nature of this ‘informal sector’ increases exploitation and violence against women on both the community and state level.
SSE promotes economic democracy and an alternative model of community-based economic management, encouraging equity and sustainability. Women especially can play a significant role in the SSE approach due to the need for economic transformation as well as the transformation of gender relations within economics and women’s leadership is vital to build a SSE based on women’s contexts and interests.
As Lin Chew, Director of IWE reiterated: we have to continue to resist and struggle against unjust systems and institutions, like the WTO, but at the same time, we need to start building alternatives, and show that “another world IS possible.”
One of the issues discussed during the workshop was the necessity for “Fair” trade and to create a fair economic trading system, based on just “win-win” exchange processes, which encourages the community’s development and control of their own economic resources to fulfill basic needs. The participants expressed dissatisfaction with WTO’s and indicated the need for ‘Fair trade’ and not ‘Free Trade.’
"We must build alternatives unjust economic systems" - Lin Chew, Direcotr of IWE.
The workshop reached various successful outcomes, including participants’ agreement to introduce the SSE approach in their communities and organizations, to continue exchange of experiences and challenges among the various groups involved and the commitment to work towards the creation of women’s alternative markets.
The struggle for women’s rights in obtaining and accessing economic resources remains challenging, but women’s organizations have become aware of the need for solidarity action in order to enhance women’s rights on all levels.