This paper examines the ways in which women engaged in informal sector work in Ethiopia are being organized under savings and credit cooperatives, and offers a critique of the potential for expanding social and solidarity economy (SSE) through women’s cooperatives. It argues that the political economy under which cooperatives are being formed delimits the possibility of expanding SSE through this method. Three critiques developed in this regard relate, first, to questions of grassroots women’s lack of autonomy; second, to ideology and the fact that the cooperatives are struggling for relevance in a political context that depoliticizes women’s rights discourses; and third, alienation as a result of the enforced separation between the economic spheres of women’s work and sociopolitical spheres of grassroots women’s activism. The paper concludes that the greatest potential to expand SSE through cooperatives lies in the possibility of minimizing private sector and state influence on women’s grassroots organizations.
Lyn Ossome is a PhD candidate in political studies at University of the Witwatersrand. She has published in the areas of her research interest, which include feminist theory and politics, land and agrarian studies, postcolonial theory and African politics, and has served in consultative and advisory capacities in civil society organizations across Africa.