| Gender considerations in economic enterprises |
|4 Papers presented at the workshop|
The following paper is based on work done in the Philippines. It gives a definition of people's economic enterprises (PEEs), defining their functions ant principles and emphasizing that PEEs, although based on business principles, cannot be separated from the strategic and political context of women's development. A key factor is women's access to, and control of, productive resources.
The Philippines has a very strong people's movement which is organised along sectoral lines. It comprises four main sectors: urban poor, trade unions, rural workers and fisherfolk. These are organized vertically (on community, regional and national level). Where there are shared interests they are also organised horizontally.
Economic empowerment is seen as the process which brings direct control to the people over their economic life; it is not simply the process of increasing income. The people's movement resists the idea of integrating the poor into the current banking system (and by extension the international market) since the banking system focuses on extraction of resources and ignores the needs of the poor.
The thinking of many NGOs and POs in the Philippines is therefore focusing around building up alternative economic systems. The main role of the NGO sector is seen as that of enhancing social organization through providing and facilitating support services. It is therefore seen as critical that a PEE should be part of the support structure and the organization of the sector or community and not as an entry point.
Case study 1 Linking People's Economic Enterprises to women's development
Women's Research and Resources Centre, Philippines
People's economic enterprises (PEEs) are income and employment generation projects, schemes or interventions pursued by non-governmental development organizations that rely on mutual cooperation and are geared towards enabling the poor to have a direct control over the means of production. PEEs, whether in the form of cooperatives or small and medium-sized business corporations, have the following primary functions:
To provide employment and raise the income of the poor.
To respond to the basic needs of members.
To facilitate the transfer of skills and technology into the local community.
To consolidate and expand the existing people's organization.
To preserve the ecological system.
PEEs must assume, be planned, and operate along the objectives of a business enterprise but they cannot be detached from the broad political movement being waged by the poor i.e. they must mix profit objectives with socio-political ones. They must be linked to each other in such a way as to serve as building blocks for an economic system that provides an alternative to the system controlled by local and multinational monopoly interests.
Some guiding principles (adopted from the Conference-Workshop on People's Cooperatives, Jub 15-21, 1990, Puerto Galera, Philippines) are:
PEEs should be founded on strong and solid people's organizations. This is essential both for the advancement of the poor's political will and in order to avoid control by political and economic elites.
They should allow open and voluntary membership for the poor. (Oxfam needs to consider whether we should be focusing on the poorest of the poor or the poor).
They should be autonomous i.e. free from external intervention and control.
They should be self-reliant i.e. make optimal use of local resources, local leadership, and appropriate management systems.
They should be democratic i.e. emphasize participatory decision-making.
They should be service-orientated rather than consumer-oriented i.e. concentrate on, for example, marketing and transport rather than growing staples.
They should value education for their members and ensure sustained education and skills training in order to build economic efficiency and political astuteness.
They should ensure equitable distribution of surplus with other people's organizations.
PEEs should cooperate with other people's enterprises and so work towards building and consolidating a movement that reaches from the village to the national level.
In the Philippines, there is a proliferation of women's livelihood or economic projects in both the urban and rural areas. However, women's projects remain marginal, traditional, and lack long term economic viability. Women's projects are rarely, if ever, linked to each other, and are conspicuously absent from organized alternative economic movements, such as the cooperative movement. Village-level organizations of poor sectors, such as landless peasants, sugarcane workers, fisherfolk and urban poor, are still predominantly male-oriented in process and leadership. Income-generating projects formed for women within such groups carry a strong perspective that 'women's income is supplementary to the men's' end 'women's income is necessary to free men's labour and time for the more important task of political education and mobilization'.
Women's access to and control of productive resources for economic self-reliance and autonomy is a vital indicator of women's development and empowerment. In pursuing such a goal within the framework of PEEs, certain critical considerations for women's development need to be addressed at the field level.
Is there an autonomous women's group or organization that can assume leadership of the economic project? If so, what does the group need in terms of orientation and conscientisation on women's needs and issues in order to enhance its understanding and promotion of women's development within the economic enterprise? If there is none, what are entry points for creating a women's group in the area?
What skills training and technical and logistical support do the women need in order to carry out on their own socio-economic baseline data gathering which is sensitive to the existing sexual division of labour in the area; and participatory project identification, design and planning activity?
What practical and strategic women's interests will the proposed economic project meet or respond to?
What economic and non-economic support will the women need to establish, manage and control the project?
How will the project impact on women's workload, time use, health status, and existing control over certain resources and processes (e.g. food productions For example, communal kitchens may reduce women's control over an activity such as cooking.
What adverse impacts on women or groups in the community will the project have?
Are there clear indicators on how the project will be evaluated in relation to women's development and empowerment?
NGOs may have to decide whether or not to work with groups whose structures are undemocratic, and whether IGPs may be a useful entry point with such groups, in the hope of eventually modifying their structures from within. . .
Where women's groups are centrally controlled, NGOs need to be aware of the constraints this can cause, but also of the possibility of encouraging change by working at the local level.
NGOs need to consider carefully whether or not working within 'top-down' women's groups can in the long term lead to the liberation of women.
The benefits of IGPs in terms of increased incomes need to be evaluated against the other benefits obtained for women through direct socio-political activities.
Linking PEE groups together can often strengthen them in their work for strategic change.
NGOs should consider ways of linking women working in the formal and the informal sectors. Working at the community level is also important.
In the Philippines, where the. economy has collapsed, the informal economy has developed to prop up the poor. IGPs have a role to play in supporting the informal economy.