Economic and social conditions in the Arab region were affected by a number of major changes that took place in the second half of the 20th century. These include adopting market economy in the 1970s, the financial crises that hit several countries in the late 1980s, and the structural reform programs brought about by international financial institutions. While those programs were initially seen as the way out of the crises caused by the liberalization of the market, they proved their inability to overcome the numerous problems triggered by the expansion of the capitalist system especially poverty and unemployment and gaps between classes started widening even more. As development failed to materialize and living standards deteriorated, social justice became almost nonexistent, which was one of the main reasons for the uprisings that erupted in different parts of the Arab region.
While disenfranchised citizens in general bore the brunt of such crisis, women were particularly affected owning to their vulnerable status and to the fact they are doubly marginalized in the Arab region. Women’s financial burden exceeds that of men on a number of levels. Women constitute a large percentage of wage and non-wage workers across the Arab region and contribute largely to both the formal and informal sectors in order to bridge the gap between the income of the family and the continuous price hikes. Women are also the first to suffer from the diminishing state role in public services such as healthcare and education since they are traditionally responsibly for the upbringing of their children and for the general survival of the family.
This paper will first tackle the general economic and historical framework of alternative economy. The second part will examine social and solidarity economy as a form of alternative economy then will look into experiences on the ground and the role of trade unions and rights organizations in planning alternative solutions and drafting laws and legislations that support them with special emphasis on the case of Tunisia. The third part will tackle women empowerment within social and solidarity economy and the way this type of economy provides women with security and independence. The last part will discuss the role the state can play in order to support social and solidarity economy in general and women’s involvement in particular.
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