Feminist analysis of social and solidarity economy practices: views from Latin America and India
Funding Agency(ies):
The Swiss Network for International Studies, Geneva
Principal Investigator(s):
Dr. Isabelle Guérin and Dr. G. Venkatasubramanian
Start Date : 
Duration : 
3 years

Production, exchange and redistribution practices based on solidarity can be found in almost all areas of economic activity. Long ignored, these Social and Solidarity Economic (SSE) practices are receiving growing attention by scholars and by public authorities. This increasing interest however, remains gender blind, even though these practices are highly gendered and women play a major role in them. The SSE practices in the area of social reproduction are still under-recognized. This research project aims at addressing these gaps in SSE analysis and policies from a feminist perspective. It will contribute to the empirical and theoretical debates on social reproduction.

We hypothesize that to be truly transformative SSE needs to also address the reorganisation of social reproduction, integrating the political goals of gender equality and more equitable power relations.

Our research questions are: 1. to understand practices, social relations and power relations in relation to social reproduction within SSE; 2. to explore the contribution of SSE to the renewal of public action and policies, in the field of production and social reproduction.

We have selected 1-2 SSE organisations in each of the four research sites: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and India. To answer our research questions, we will develop, at the micro-level, in-depth studies of the selected SSE organisations, using feminist anthropological approaches. At the meso and macro-level, we will explore the interactions between SSE and political debate, action and public policies, using feminist economics, sociology and political science approaches. These multi-scalar and pluridisciplinar studies will lead us to produce comparative analysis and contribute to substantial conclusions, both at theoretical and policy levels. This project was born of a collective work initiated between researchers at IHEID and UNRISD in Geneva, IRD and CNAM in Paris, and partners in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and India, a network based on long-lasting collaborations.

Materials and methods


In India there is a long standing tradition of feminist movements combining “struggle” and “development” (Kabeer et al. 2013). Though the term “solidarity economy” is not used (as it is the case in many Asian and Anglophone countries), their method of intervention echoes the SSE practices observed in Latin America.

In addition to everyday practical support (such as care and health services, popular education, microfinance, cooperatives of producers or artisans, management of common resources, etc.), these initiatives engage in various lobbying activities with municipalities, employers (when they can be identified), ministries (both at the central and state level), traditional trade unions (most often gender blind) and sometimes international organizations, such as the ILO. Given the prevalence of informal labour (more than 90% according to the last census), social protection is a major issue. SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association-India) is one of the best-known example but many other initiatives exist, both in rural and urban areas, in various sectors of the economy (agriculture, producers, artisans, waste pickers, street vendors, domestic workers, etc.). Unlike Latin America, where “solidarity economy” is formally recognized and institutionalized through specific public policies, these initiatives don’t come under a common umbrella and rather promote sectorial or territorial approaches. Looking at these contrasted institutional contexts and strategies will be added values of using a comparative approach.

Field work is performed with two women’s organizations of workers selected in collaboration with our partners, the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) with support of the French Institute of Pondicherry. ISST has been conducting research on gender and grass-roots activism since 1980 and is in regular contact with a wide range of women’s organizations.

Main (expected) outputs

The hybrid network of the project – which includes research scholars, activists and international organisations –, will facilitate reaching these outputs and make the links between theoretical conclusions to lessons learned, through the discussions and interactions on different forms of knowledge construction, of experiences and of political processes. The comparative analysis will contribute to elaborating substantial conclusions and policy recommendations in these fields.

External team members
  • C. Verschuur (IHEID, coordinator),
  • India: R. Nandi (RN) (Institute of Social Studies Trust, India),
  • Bolivia : I. Hillenkamp (IRD-CESSMA), F. Wanderley (FW) (Universidad Mayor de San André, Bolivia), F. Calvão (FC), PhD student I. Snikersproge (IE) (IHEID);
  • Argentina : M. Fournier (MF) (Universidad Universidad Nacional General Sarmiento, Argentina),
  • Brazil : M. Nobre (MN) (Sempreviva Organização Feminista, Brazil), V. Esquivel (VE) and a research assistant (RA) (UNRISD); J.-L. Laville (JLL) (CNAM)

Staff ( IFP & External )

GUÉRIN I., Associated researcher