By Andrea Rodriguez, RIPESS EU and Sofia Pereira, APDES Portugal.

It is unusual for your first work experience as a young person to be in a democratic, horizontal environment that promotes collective work and human rights. That it is in a feminist and caring environment is even less likely.

In a continent marked by extremely high youth unemployment figures (40% Spain, 33% Greece, 30% Italy, 25% Lithuania, 24.3% Portugal…), by a pandemic that has taken a whole year of our lives, by racism and xenophobia, by the advance of corporate power, extractivism, precariousness, the rise of feminicides and transfeminicides…. From the Social and Solidarity Economy and Feminism, we insist on putting life and care at the center as an alternative to a world that is collapsing.

Specifically, in this context, the struggle that women are carrying out around the world is a fundamental contribution to organize and think about the transformation of the economy. This is made visible through the defense of natural goods, the transformation of the ways we relate to each other and the reorganization of the work of reproduction of life and care. An issue that is at the heart of the Feminist movement.


Gender relations in the Global Economy

Industrialization gives rise to a social stage marked by the separation between domestic production for self-consumption in the family and market-oriented production, a process that culminates with the introduction of capitalism. At this point, household production is abandoned and from then on all analyses take exclusively into account the market mode of production. There is a redefinition of public/private spaces and the beginning of a tradition that ignores the sexual division of labor and hides domestic family work and its articulation with the reproduction of the capitalist system. New dichotomies appear: business/family, public/private, commercial work/domestic work….

Historically, women have been relegated to the domestic sphere, working endless hours without receiving a salary for it. When they enter the labor market, they do so under unequal conditions to men, earning lower salaries, not having access to decision-making positions and having to face situations in which their opinions are undervalued. In addition to the fact that they always have to continue to take on the task of care after they finish their working day outside the home.

This situation is even more evident today in a context in which the pandemic has turned our homes into a big factory where people study, work, clean, nurse, and even do sex work, as Silvia Federici states.

Why is it urgent at this time to think about a transformation of the economy?

The Covid-19 will bring in its train a period of great confrontation for which a union of all the transforming movements is undoubtedly needed. In this sense it is important that the movements support each other materially and ideologically and converge accompanying the resistance with the construction of new things and with the idea of recovering the relationship with our body, nature and with each other. That is why Feminism is fundamental for the Social and Solidarity Economy, and vice versa.

Moreover, even today young women assume sexist roles that condition the way in which the world is perceived. But it is also true that the new generations are at the forefront of the struggles, and are aware that they want fairer and more egalitarian societies. Today they face many barriers to overcome and multiple oppressive experiences derived from a cis-heteropatriarchal and racist society, but they also have many things to contribute. That is why it is important that they have their own voice and define their own struggle.

How to transform the economy?

We maintain that the first step towards change is through formal and non-formal education. A paradigm shift requires a change of consciousness. Therefore, Education is a fundamental part of this process – and in particular Vocational Training and Primary Education – with its great potential to transform the younger generations into professional citizens who are more knowledgeable and aware of gender roles and stereotypes, of the ways of feeling and dealing with relationships, and more capable of facing the current challenges of society. The Social and Solidarity Economy has been developing specific mechanisms based on cooperation, equity and solidarity in the labor, family and many other contexts, inclusive and sustainable development in terms of the organization of sectors, the distribution of wealth and profit, instruments and partnerships that organize the co-design and co-construction of public policies that aim at the general interest and a bond of solidarity between generations. In all these perspectives, pioneers and active successors continue to build the knowledge and know-how of innovation, through learning and taking into account the large amount of transmission and diffusion. Therefore, the SSE path is naturally part of a continuous process of learning and sharing, focused on innovation and progress approaches. In this sense, education is one of the key factors of transformation, as SSE curricula would also mean a change in the way education is conceived today, especially at the European level, with curricula that promote the empowerment of young women, the dissemination of knowledge and information on the feminist approach and the breaking of traditional gender roles.

The role of the younger generation

We, the young women who participate and work in this very special field and oriented to fulfill these concrete objectives, “receive the call” to continue the work initiated by our fellow women and, together with them, radically change our reality and create a renewed world in which alternatives towards more inclusive, fair and friendly societies are actively promoted, always knowing that this process begins within ourselves, and that we all need to rethink and deconstruct our daily patterns and reactions, analyze our relationships and recognize our role in the feminist movement.