Can Development Create Empowerment and Women’s Liberation?

Ann Ferguson,
University of Massachusetts /Amherst

Empowerment of the oppressed, whether they be peasants, workers, racial minorities or women, has been taken as a goal by social movements since the 1960s.This has been true particularly Western-influenced women’s movements and other grassroots movements in countries in Latin America and the South influenced by the theology of liberation, the radical pedagogy of Freire, and/or Marxism and struggles for national liberation. While consciousness-raising practices associated with empowerment as the means to challenge social oppression were initially used in radical ways by these movements, Western women’s movements and race/ethnic rights movements often subsequently developed an identity politics that ignored the real conflicts that intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality and nationality caused between members of these movements. This made these movements liable to co-optation or defeat.

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Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution

by Cliff DuRand and Atahualpa Caldera

On August 27, 2013 Cliff DuRand and Atahualpa Caldera discussed Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, as Chávez called his project for a 21stcentury socialism. Its social missions, communal councils and cooperatives are empowering the poor in Venezuela. And its regional solidarity is transforming the face of Latin America.

View the 1 hour 40 minute video at  


Peñón de los Baños: A Community in Resistance to Neo-liberal Globalization

By Cliff DuRand

Mexico’s agriculture is a study in contrasts. On the one hand you can see in the countryside large irrigated fields producing vegetables for export to the U.S. On the other hand you can see small family plots growing food mainly for domestic consumption and sale to a local market. Favored by government policies, agribusiness is prospering, while campesino agriculture is left largely to itself as it struggles to survive.

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Anita Blue Graham
2007 student intern

“So, what exactly are you guys doing here?” Martín asked me. He is one of only two 18-year-old boys that I met during my two-week stay in Peñón de los Baños. In response to his question, I explained that we were seven students – two Mexicans, two Cubans, and three gringos – sent by the Center for Global Justice to find out what we could about the small community.

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Illusions and Realities of Sustainable Development

Bob Leonard

What is Development?

Let us first decide what development is and what it is not. It can easily be confused with relief. Disasters are seen frequently on TV – a major flood, earthquake with thousands homeless – or perhaps a famine – or displaced people running from a war. People need food, water, clothing, drugs, and they need it right away. It must be flown in, distribution must be organized and the items must reach the people. It is also important to keep the rate of stealing and profiteering down. It is fast moving, demanding, exciting and challenging, and is vital to humanitarian aid, but it is not development. It is relief. Development is quite different. Development is not about taking care of temporary situations, but is focused on permanent, sustainable change. Development is building the capacity of people, communities, local organizations, and local and national governments to build a better life for themselves and their country. It is about helping people develop the hope and the confidence that they can “do it themselves” – if they work together. It may involve some outside help initially, but they, the people have to do it themselves. A much used phrase is appropriate here: “Don’t give me a fish, but teach me how to fish.” In relief you rescue; in development you allow the people and the country to work things out themselves but with your assistance. You are like a therapist working with a client. If you rescue a person, you ruin their chance of bringing themselves through the problem and deprive them of the knowledge that they did it themselves and the pride that goes along with that. The key is ownership and sustainability, and the only way to get that, is for people to do it themselves.

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MicroCredit & MicroFinance Issues

Response to Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone’s Article on Microcredit

See Bowman and Stone’s article here

Bob and Sue Leonard

A few weeks ago, an article was written, “Can Grameen Bank-style Microcredit Eliminate Poverty?”  As an international development professional for eighteen years, there are several things in the article I must take issue with.  The first is with the title.  In spite of what the Grameen founder, Muhammad Yunus said, no seasoned development practitioner would dare to say that microcredit or any other of the many disciplines (including co-ops and micro-finance) can cure poverty.   Poverty is so multi-causal, so entrenched, so complicated and so age old that even to suggest that one mode of development can cure the problem is overly simplistic.  One has to forgive Yunus for his statement, “If we can come up with a system which allows everybody access to credit while ensuring excellent repayment, I can give you a guarantee that poverty will not last long.”  Poverty has been with us since time began, and to bring the world out of poverty is a task so complicated and so immense that it defies explanations – certainly by me.  I take Yunus’s statement as a natural expression of someone who passionately believes in what he is doing and nothing more.  So let us lay that one to rest.

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The Training of Activists in Local Development

Dr. Miguel Limia David
University of Havana, Cuba

translation by Ross Gandy

For days of intensive work in Cuba we have concentrated on the critique of capitalist globalization and on the evaluation of ways out of it, we have done this with concepts that are cultural, political, social, economic.

What follows are thoughts on building power from below in Cuba. They occur in the context of what we are living through—a crisis of global capitalist civilization. The crisis is both social and ecological. And in it a renovation of the socialist ideal is taking place, to the tune of a critical analysis of the history we have lived through and of the new realities of world social development.

To some the renovation of the socialist ideal may seem irrelevant and inopportune. Wrong: it is neither secondary nor tangential to our country. It is essential for the final socialist construction of society. It is not a theme derived from the conjunctural crisis we have lived through during the last few years. (Of course that crisis has made it both topical and unavoidable.) Traditional socialist thought could not find a solution to it in the experiences of the twentieth century. Today we must confront it. There is no way around it–we must solve it! What does this mean? It demands breaking with inertial modes of thinking. It means learning new ways of doing. It means quaffing a dosis of civic responsibility.

It is one of the ways of finding a revolutionary solution for the internal contradictions of social development shaped by history. On both the national and local level it confronts the globalizing processes that hit us in a world stamped by capitalism. And it challenges the hegemonic imperial policy of the North American government.

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Women of Calakmul

Elisa Lomelí Curiel and Karina Ochoa
translation by Holly Yasui

When I was invited to present this paper at the “Women and Globalization” conference, I felt that to talk about women in the municipality of Calakmul, Campeche would be a worthwhile challenge, since the organizational work that the indigenous and mestiza women carry out in order to participate fundamentally in social movements should transcend local borders and be made visible on the national level.

It’s a bit complicated to share with you the life and struggles of us women who came to the tropical jungles of Campeche only a few decades ago. The southern region of the state is an area recently populated, as a result of the settlement program that brought together people from 26 states, speaking 17 indigenous languages, among which are most notably Chol, Tzetal, and Peninsular Maya or Yucateco.

This particular history of settlement has caused this area to become, in less than three decades, a veritable Tower of Babel , which has unleashed a plethora of difficulties and challenges, but also a broad range of experiences that, without doubt, enrich the collective actions that has been undertaken in the region for the past twenty years.

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A cooperative model of social development: Using the workplace for social and individual growth

Dana Silverman
MSW student at Monmouth University, International and Community Development
Please send comments to Dana at
Principles & Illustrations

This August 2004, at the Workshop on AlterGlobalizations in San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, we were talking about topics on alternatives to capitalistic accumulation as well as issues surrounding social and distributive injustice. This paper explores the concepts that can serve as a stepping-stone for grassroots community economic development. With it, I intend to bridge the gap between profit and non-for-profit cultures.

This paper plants ideas in our heads, from which to build cooperative social enterprises. It should be a bridge not just of economic opportunity to those who are marginalized, but a conduit to the social services that foster sustained opportunity. After a grassroots, strengths based need assessment is done, those who are marginalized can capitalize on the gaps that are revealed. Due to the ambiguity in the word cooperative, I will use the term community enterprise interchangeably with cooperative. Community enterprises revitalize communities through progressive personal and systemic collaboration. It is one alternative to the secluded individual enterprise or the large-scale, absentee-owner corporation propagated by the trickle down theory economic growth model. (Midgley, 1997)

It should use both its internal, participatory structure as well as external resources for true micro (intra & interpersonal) and macro (systemic) change. The basis in which I propose the cooperative businesses as a community/social enterprise for social development, in the USA and elsewhere, is because:

  • Successful job retention for low and very low-income community residents often required the involvement of supportive services. Community enterprises can collectively decide what services the surplus profit is used toward.
  • These services should be utilized as enterprise opportunities by those who most understand its need.
  • The project may be able to claim federal grant moneys as certain projects funded with government sources are legally bound to support economic development for low-income residents. (The Enterprise Foundation, 2003; Saul, 2001)

Current trends of governmental welfare, in the United States, stresses a consumption, minimalist, remedial emergency based intervention system. (Midgley, 1997) Midgley (1997) points out that an alternative, more holistic and sustainable approach to social intervention is social development, a model that incorporates social and economic disciplines for the well being of all. There are certain attributes of the cooperative (worker-owner) business model that contribute to this model of social development.

Below is a brief outline of concepts and its application showing how the cooperative business model is valid for filling individual psychological needs (there is a need for academic research regarding this) and providing a path out of economic and communal poverty. The components below are part of a puzzle that when put together may equate to equitable, sustainable holistic social development and community revitalization.

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Community Development Fund: Donation to Peñon de los Baños

By Holly Yasui

The people of Peñon hope that projects such as this will help eliminate the need for family members to migrate north to work. Several representatives are planning to go with the Center delegation to Hidalgo on March 31 to see the greenhouses there, and it is expected that as a result, some of the Hidalgo cooperative members will come to Peñon to help them set up their project. Read More...

To Build a Park in San Luis Rey

By Holly Yasui

They got the land for a park donated to the community of Santa Cecilia, and they cleared it. They got trees from the Ecology Department, and planted them. But in the dusty neighborhoods around San Luis Rey, on the north end of San Miguel, where about 90% of the residents originally come from rural communities, many people have livestock to supplement their family’s meals. And so not only street dogs but also other animals wander through the park and damage the tender shoots of the newly planted trees. Read More...


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