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University of Washington - Seattle Campus

Publication Date

Spring 2006

Program Name

Southern Cone: Regional Integration, Development and Social Change


In the last two decades in Latin America many social movements have arisen in response to the permeation of neo-liberalism throughout. These movements have many different labels (economía solidaria, economía comunitaria, economía social, solidaridad social, etc) but are all centered around the objective of forming a network of groups in the fight for economic justice, joining in solidarity, cooperation and mutual support. The idea of “economía solidaria” has become an alternative method of development in Latin America on the micro level, alleviating the effects of poverty that result from neo-liberal policies. Many non-governmental organizations have adopted the beliefs of “economía solidaria”, centering their objectives, achievement of goals and growth on the importance of solidarity and the production for the betterment of the community, not just personal betterment. The order of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd has begun projects all over the world, utilizing “economía solidaria” to support impoverished artisans, especially women. Through my investigation of one of these projects in Itaguá, Paraguay, Teko Joja Kuña Rembiapópe (Teko Joja), I was able to find how “economía solidaria” has helped the situations of the women artisans in this group. However, these women reiterate how “economía solidaria” is much more than just economic support, instead has helped them to improve various aspects of their lives, grow personally, while producing and fighting for a “fair trade” economy and market without intermediaries. In the context of Paraguay, there are historical sentiments from the military states and dictatorships that have permeated the public consciousness, which obstructs the progress of society and trust in the ability of the state to alleviate poverty and its effects. Due to this, organizations like Teko Joja in Paraguay have begun to address these problems on their own, without state support, and through “economía solidaria”. By studying the success of this community and group of women, I was able to conclude that development can be defined by much more than just accumulation of wealth, but also defined solely by the improvement of the quality of life through solidarity. I argue that “economía solidaria” can serve as an alternative development defined more by the necessities of the community, rather than only accumulation of capital. In many cases, as seen in my investigation, there are basic needs more urgent that can be addressed through alternative methods, rather than solely capital investment. By demonstrating how Teko Joja has improved the lives of the women artisans in more than just an economic aspect, I argue that “economía solidaria” can serve as an alternative and sustainable form of development.


Economics | Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations | Growth and Development | Politics and Social Change | Sociology


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