In this talk Margaret McLaren discusses the work she has done with women’s cooperatives in India. Her 2019 book, Women’s Activism, Feminism, and Social Justice, looks at the ways that two grassroots women’s organizations, the Self-Employed Women’s Association and MarketPlace India, empower women through access to livelihoods as well as fostering leadership capabilities that allow them to challenge structural injustice through political and social activism. Drawing upon real life struggles for economic and social justice, McLaren’s book shows how these organizations empower their members through dignified labor, participation in organizational decision-making, and developing leadership. The organizations also cultivate a respect for diversity of identities. This respect for diversity coincides with the ability to criticize pernicious traditions and practices. Each organization empowers its members to challenge structural injustice through social and political activism. The strategies they employ demonstrate the effectiveness of beginning from the local and moving toward the global to promote gender justice. Their struggles to resist economic exploitation and gender oppression through collective action also show the importance of challenging individualist approaches.
The take-away from these organizations is both practical and theoretical: on a practical level the comprehensive strategy that they employ can serve as a model for solidarity and resistance for transnational feminism; on a theoretical level their collective struggle for survival, solidarity, and resistance to exploitation and oppression calls for a shift in our thinking and practice towards re-imagining the possibilities for justice from a relational framework, from independence to interdependence, from identity to intersectionality, and from interest to socio-political imagination.
Margaret McLaren is a Philosophy Professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.In addition to her current book, she has also published Feminism, Foucault and Embodied Subjectivity.