Paula Sánchez de la Blanca

The dynamic scene of community currencies in Spain

Encuentromsalcala

Learning about the civic innovation potential of alternative currencies during the 5th Meeting of Community Currencies

In the context of the ‘2016 Social Spring’, Alcalá de Henares, hometown of Miguel de Cervantes, hosted the 5th Meeting of Community Currencies (or ‘monedas sociales’) in Spain. Members of more than 20 community currencies (CCs) attended the meeting during the weekend of the 20th -22nd May 2016 and a series of thematic lectures during the previous week. A few academics including Georgina Gómez and myself, on behalf of ISS CIRI team, were also present at this meeting interested in the civic innovation dynamics of this gathering.

The major themes during the lectures were software applications for CCs, local currencies in public policy and the social transformation potential of solidarity-based community projects. There was also time for self-organized workshops among participants who were members of a community currency, an open space to exchange experiences and a general assembly to reach agreements for upcoming coordination projects. Indeed, the main objective of this meeting was to bring together the different community currencies throughout Spain, enhancing interaction and exchange of challenges and solutions.

The interactive nature of this meeting is a reflection of the dynamic scenario of Spanish community currencies. Community currencies have extraordinarily spread throughout Spain during last decade. According to Julio Gisbert’s CCs database, more than 300 initiatives are counted nowadays.

Contextualizing CCs in Spain

Over the past hundred years, Spain has had a rich history of local currency innovation. During the civil war (1936-1939), Francoist forces refused to accept the official money split Spain in two opposing currency zones. In parallel, communities with a tradition of anarchist ideas in the South and East of the country started to issue their own local forms of money (Hugues, 2015). As historian Wilko von Prittwitz put it, Spain became in that period a variety of currency experiments.

CommunityCurrencySpain1

Historical community currency in Spain

According to Hugues, a second wave of currency innovation was in the late 1990s, when Spanish local governments engaged in ‘municipal timebanking’ creating or offering assistance to groups willing to use time-banking to support people’s needs and solidarity networks in the city areas.

 

 

Since 2009, Spain is living a third wave of experimentation in alternative economic practices. This recent rise of community currencies in Spain is framed in the context of economic crisis where CCs are responding to social needs created or accentuated by the crisis.

As evidenced in the Alcala de Henares meeting, there is also an important role for what Hugues calls ‘CC pioneers’, like Julio Gisbert or Enric Durant. Julio Gisbert is author of the book ‘Vivir sin empleo’ and a blog with the same name. He is also the president of the Association for the development of timebanks in Spain. Nicknamed ‘The Bank Robin Hood’, Durant is the co-founder of the crypto currency Fair coin and its cooperative Fair Coop, and he has been actively engaged in the Catalonian integral cooperatives. Besides, Hugues sees a growing influence of heterogeneous social movements such as the de-growth activists and the 15M Movement.

Although CCs in Spain differ substantially in their principles and goals, there is a common understanding of the systemic problems of a growth-based economy and the need of alternative economic practices experimentation, recognizing that money is socially-constructed. The 15M movement emerged in 2011 out of demonstrations where hundreds of thousands of ‘indignant’ citizens occupy city squares across the country (see our related post here). Many of the self-managed local groups remained committed to mutuality and locality and they join or create a community currency. For example, in the Canary Islands Demos, a self-organized CC with a basic income revenue scheme emerged from the 15M Assembly of La Isleta. In her research on Puma LETS in Seville, Medina (2015: 26) concludes that ‘contentious claims as well as the plans and actions of the 15-M social movement, motivated degrowth activists to inaugurate a LETS within the Pumarejo neighbourhood, transforming potential for mobilisation into action.’

Diversity and increasing interaction

Julio Gisbert’s database currently maps out more than 300 CCs throughout Spain, with Catalonia, Andalousie and Madrid being the most active regions.

GisbertMap

Julio Gisbert’s map of community currencies

He differentiates time-banks, bartering schemes and social currencies/markets. Among them there is a wide variety of principles, designs and actors involved. In terms of community currencies, they can be euro-backed (such as the Boniato en Madrid and the Ekhi in Bilbao). However, the most widespread type is mutual-credit schemes where a virtual currency is created through the exchange of goods/services of its products. In fact, the vast majority of participants in Alcala de Henares were part of a mutual-credit currency. Examples include the Puma in Seville, the Turuta in Vilanova i la Geltrú, the ekos in the Castellón, the común in Malaga, the Demos in the Canary Islands, the pita in Almeria and the Osel in Murcia.

In this diverse mosaic of alternative economic practices in Spain, there is not a common project. However, many CCs are increasingly interacting with each other. The Alcala de Henares meeting has been the fifth nation-wide effort to exchange experiences and meet strategic stakeholders (such as local governments and software design companies). There is a growing interest in learning from each other. For instance, out of the assembly of this V meeting, an open document was created to exchange practical challenges and solutions among CCs. Also, a workgroup was created to organize a journey-documentary visiting all CCs initiatives in Spain trying to only use social money.

Concluding, community currencies in Spain are opening new learning spaces from where many people are better coping with the social needs created or accentuated by the economic crisis. However, is their civic innovation potential limited to the context of crisis? Looking at the current scenario of Spanish CCs, it seems many of them have already created new ways of understanding and doing a sustainable social economy.

 

 

 

Mansoureh Shojaee, CIRI Visiting Fellow

CIR HormozganJPG

 

I will share the stories of some of my photos during the upcoming DRS Dialogue on “Coloniality of gender, cyberfeminism and the poetics of resistance” on 6 June 2016.

Paulina Trejo Mendez, ISS

DRSSpring2016_CollageSat

I am looking forward to share my artwork and reflect on it jointly with you during the upcoming ISS Development Research Seminar (DRS) on “Coloniality of gender, cyberfeminism and the poetics of resistance” on 6 June 2016!

Liz Hilton, Empower Foundation

 

We were asked “What makes sex work a precarious and often dangerous occupation?” For us it is more interesting to be asked “What makes sex work such a viable occupation for millions of people when it seems precarious and often dangerous?”

The majority of people in the world have no qualifications, no capital and a need to earn cash for their survival and the survival of the people they love. In many countries, children of 8 or 9 years begin to earn money to help the family income or look after younger siblings while parents are out working. They work after school, weekends and holidays. By the time they reach the age of full time work, usually 15 years old, they have experienced many jobs. The adult labor market for those without qualifications or access to capital offers work that is often either excruciatingly tedious and/or physically grinding on our bodies. This work takes up more than a third of our days, which is our life. It rarely provides access to social protection and rarely leads to any opportunities.

HousewifeCartoon

Not work, but ‘labour of love’?

As women and mothers much of the work offered to us is the work of caring e.g. cleaning, cooking, washing, child minding, aged and disabled care. This is the kind of work we are expected to do free in our homes as a ‘labor of love’, so of course it is not valued much more when we do it outside the home for money. We are also expected to have sex for free, another ‘labor of love’. Asking to be compensated for sex in cash rather than in flowers is actively condemned both legally and morally. However, we find that men value sex more highly than ironed shirts etc., so are willing to pay more for this than any other service we women provide in the market. Still, it is just a small minority of women who will decide that the opportunities sex work provides are worth the risks of working outside State protection and social approval. Sex work provides a chance to end generational poverty for themselves and their families. It is not surprising people decide to do sex work; given the inequality between rich and poor combined with the tyranny of the man-made market.

NoBadWhoresBadLaws

Criminalisation and lack of recognition as work makes sex work precarious

Tens of millions of people, mainly women, decide to do sex work. It does not seem reasonable that the punishment for this decision should be total disregard for their right to human dignity, physical integrity, access to protection and justice. Even people who have committed serious crimes are still accorded their full human rights – why not sex workers?

I am looking forward to discussing these thoughts with you during the ISS Dialogue on Civic Innovation Research on “Decent Work for Sex Workers” on 24 May 2016. Also, have a look at Empower’s recent research report that details steps for “Moving toward Decent Sex Work“.

 

Patricia Viseur Sellers (PVS) and Kirsten Campbell (KC) have, among them, huge experience with some of the most important international, national and alternative strategies for addressing sexual violence in contemporary wars. Patricia Sellers worked as a feminist lawyer with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). She now works in the International Criminal Court, and in 2000 was Co-Prosecutor at the Women’s International Tribunal in Tokyo. Kirsten Campbell has been doing extensive research on  prosecution of sexual violence in ICTY and national Bosnian courts and participated in the 2015 Women’s Court in Sarajevo. Both are well known feminist scholars who wrote extensively on international criminal law, transitional justice and gender.

On 9 May 2016 they will be at ISS, at the Development Research Seminars (DRS) Dialogue, addressing alternative strategies for achieving justice for the crimes perpetrated during violent conflicts. The following short reflections are among some of the issues they will address during the DRS Dialogue.  

PatriciaViseurSellers

Patricia Viseur Sellers

PVS: Sexual violence in wars has been tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Other international or hybrid courts, such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone, also addressed crimes of sexual violence in the armed conflict in Sierra Leone. Each of these judicial mechanisms developed extraordinary jurisprudence and other precedents, such as for example procedures for witness protections. Other international and national courts, such as the International Criminal Court, and war crimes chambers in national courts such as in Uganda, or Bosnian and Herzegovina, special chambers such as in Senegal or the national criminal courts in Guatemala, Colombia, Argentina or Germany also have jurisdiction over criminal acts that entail international crimes of sexual violence. So, the ICTY and ICTR initiated the modern wave of addressing international crimes based upon sexual and gender-based violence.

Each judicial mechanism attempts to redress international crimes such as rape as an act of crimes against humanity or as a war crime not only for the individual survivor, but also for the affected communities.  So the Special Court for Sierra Leone, for example, judged in the Charles Taylor case, that the civilian population had been attacked, inter alia, by sexual terrorisation. Hence, testimonies that individual and communities members might offer to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice should not be diminished.  Furthermore, other courts, such as the International Criminal Court have procedure that allow recognized victims to be represented as a party at all stages of the proceedings and to receive reparations, compensation and restitution.  Besides, some courts could expand the temporal jurisdiction of crimes of sexual violence. In Guatemala and Argentina as well as in Cambodia, the respective courts have examined testimony of sexual violence that was committed decades ago.  The lack of statute of limitations on war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity opens the possibility that past atrocities might be judged today.

KoreanComfortWomen

Former Korean ‘comfort women’ waving their handkerchiefs to supporters after the closing of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal Tokyo

This possibility is important for the courts and tribunals that are organized as alternatives to the official, international and national courts. I served as a Co-Prosecutor at the Women’s International Tribunal, in Tokyo, in 2000. This was a symbolic trial for the women who had been subjugated to sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.  The victims and survivors are commonly known as the ‘Comfort Women’.  The tribunal was a unique exercise of civil society’s ability to draw critical attention to the unanswered crimes committed against at least a hundred thousand women. The legal angle was paramount because state courts in Japans repeatedly rejected any claims made by the ‘Comfort Women’ during the past decades. Also, the legal approach highlighted that the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also held in Tokyo, in 1946, did not include the crimes committed against the ‘Comfort Women’. The Women’s Tribunal was composed of over ten national prosecution teams, such as North and South Korea, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Netherlands, because these were the countries – some former colonies – from where the girls and women originated.  The judges were highly respected international law experts, that came from the United States, Kenya, Australia, and Argentina.  The Women’s Tribunal used as its own criminal code, the 1946 Tokyo Charter, to underscore that the crimes committed against the ‘Comfort Women’ could have been tried already in 1946. The Women’s Tribunal presented evidence and reached conclusion about the criminal conduct and the reparations due to the survivors and to the memory of the victims. The judgment is a source of law under Article 38(c) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice.

 

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Kirsten Campbell

KC: Sexual violence in wars has received a lot of attention lately – from international and national courts, from women’s groups and feminist activists, from UN, from national governments, but also from celebrities. While this attention is politically important, it has not resulted in greater clarity of our understanding of conflict-related sexual violence, or how to provide justice for these crimes.  Rather, the context for serious academic or political engagement with this topic is increasingly challenging.  Academic research is turning away from gender and feminist analysis, while also calling for more quantitative data and cross-country comparison.  The broader political context is increasing ‘securitization’ of conflict-related sexual violence, emphasizing the security of states rather than justice for victims.  The issue of justice remains a crucial question for feminist politics in the field of conflict-related sexual violence.

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The Women’s Court Sarajevo (Photo: Clara Casagrande)

In such a context of securitization of sexual violence in conflict, it is important to be attentive to an effort to create a new feminist paradigm of justice in the first women’s court held in Europe.  The Women’s Court dealt with the connected violence committed during and after the war in the former Yugoslavia, and was held on 8-9 May 2015 in Saraevjo in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Court aimed to offer an alternative to the failure of the formal legal system to provide justice; to enable women to be active agents of justice, and to build a more just peace in the former Yugoslavia. The work of the Court has not yet finished.  The Preliminary Decision was rendered by the Judicial Council, with the Judgment and book of witness testimonies still to be published. Above all, it involves the ongoing attempt to create a new feminist paradigm of justice.  How to do this remains the crucial issue for the Court, and for feminist interventions in this field.

Karin Pape, European Regional Coordinator of the International Domestic Workers’ Federation (IDWF)

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Domestic workers celebrate the ratification of the ILO Domestic Workers Convention C189 in June 2011 (image: IDWN ILO Blog)

Over the last 10 years, organized domestic workers have entered the international scene and created a movement. It achieved the first ever comprehensive, international standard, which regulates minimum working conditions for domestic workers – the ILO Convention 189 that was adopted in 2011. How did a bunch of invisible, disperse, marginalized workers – many of whom are migrants – successfully organize for change?

Almost every fifth out of the estimated 67 million domestic workers in the world is an international migrant. In addition, in many countries, for example, in Latin America, there are internal migrants – women from rural areas going to the cities in order to find domestic work. The vast majority of all domestic workers, migrants and nationals alike, are women.

There are many vulnerabilities, which are shared by migrant and national domestic workers. However, there are some aspects specific to migrant domestic work. Among others, these are:

  • Migrant domestic workers are at the crossroads of origin and destination countries’ policies with regard to immigration laws and laws which regulate the labour market in the destination countries. These frameworks define the level of labour protection and sometimes provide very little or almost no protection at all.
  • Migrant domestic workers are in particular exposed to violations of human and labour rights as they face disadvantages, compared to nationals, with regard to power relations: th
    DomesticWorkerLebanon

    In many countries, like here in Lebanon, migrant domestic workers enjoy even less legal protection than their national colleagues (image: Middle East Online)

    ey often have language deficits, are not familiar with the rights and customs in the countries they work, they lack access to local support networks and are reluctant to report abuses because they fear deportation. Living with the employer can mean to be staying in a protected environment, but too often live-in migrant domestic workers are subject to violence, including sexual abuses and other human rights violations.

Getting from the “kitchen table to the UN” did not come out of the blue. Domestic workers around the globe have a long history of organizing. However, the first international gathering of domestic workers in 2006 in Amsterdam triggered a process of international organising. In this context, the ILO Convention was seen as one tool to achieve a “global movement of domestic workers”, as stated by Marcelina Bautista, the then Chair of the Confederación Latinoamericana de Trabajadoras del Hogar (CONLACTRAHO) during the Amsterdam Conference in 2006.

The Amsterdam Conference in 2006 brought together active domestic workers’ organizations, as well as a wide range of support organizations, such as: trade union organizations, international NGOs and networks like Anti Slavery International, Migrant Forum Asia (MFA), Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), to name just a few. This broad alliance was kept and used strategically to involve organized domestic workers in the process of getting an ILO Convention from the very beginning.

The ILO Convention No. 189 does not distinguish between migrant and national domestic workers. It applies to all domestic workers (Article 2.1). However, there are some Articles, which refer to particular protection needs of migrant domestic workers, such as:

  • having contracts before departing from their country of origin (Article 8),
  • the regulation of (cross-boarder) recruitment agencies (Article 15), and
  • the right to keep one’s travel and identity documents (9 c).

In order to be informed about and enforcing rights, it is indispensible for workers in general, but in particular for migrant domestic workers, to organize into organizations of their choosing. Trade unions have increasingly become open to take on vulnerable occupational groups, which are not part of traditional work forces. If they have done so with regard to domestic workers, they have realized that – unlike other workers – domestic workers do not organise and, in fact, cannot be organized at the work place. Individual membership raises expectations that the unions cannot meet and leads to frustrations on both sides. These may even develop into an anti-union, hostile attitude from the side of the workers. Only when (migrant) domestic workers have already formed pre-organizations and enter into “negotiations” with a union as a group, which includes being represented in trade union decision-making bodies, organizing (migrant) domestic workers can be successful. In fact, migrant domestic workers, including the undocumented, are among the most active if they are represented in the unions.

Despite all progress, the relationship between (migrant) domestic workers and trade unions is still “in the making” and everything but easy. Very often stereotypes on both sides persist, such as:

  • “It is impossible to organize domestic workers.”
  • “Unions don’t do anything – they just want my money.“

I am looking forward to discuss these and other experiences, including those from the audience, during a guest lecture at the ISS on 26 April 2016.

Paulina Trejo Mendez, ISS, Giulia Simula, ISS, Laura Angelica Santamaria Buitrago, ISS & Paula Sanchez de la Blanca Díaz-Meco, 15M, Spain

JuventudSinFuturo

Spanish ‘Youth without future’

In the next session of our  Dialogues on Civic Innovation Research on 25 April 2016, we will be looking at youth responses of resistance and hope to the economic crisis in Southern Europe.

We are interested in the voices and alternatives is the current dominant narrative on the economic crisis leaving out. How are young people in Europe trying to counter this narrative with alternatives that consciously try to de-link from capitalist social relations and how are they re-inventing new economic and social relations?

Youth networks in southern Europe are working to form alternatives in ways that differ from older more traditional struggles of class and capital. We see youth as part of a contemporary form of protest today that is resisting inequalities and responding to global consumer capitalism in ways that go beyond the old class/capital battles. In negotiating current relations and futures youth are dealing with issues like generation, gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, care and environment. We explore how these concerns lead to more messy and heterogeneous modes of organizing, chronologies and agendas. The new forms of relations particularly linked to non-hierarchical ways of organizing are not entirely new, but can co-exist with previous experiences of collective leadership (e.g. long-term autonomistas (autonomy) and anarchist traditions in Spain).

Our dialogue is inspired by a series of discussions among ourselves as young people aged from 16-30 in dialogue with Wendy Harcourt. All of us have lived or undertaken research in Spain and Italy. We experimented in writing a chapter of the CIRI book on “Exploring Civic Innovation for Social and Economic Transformation“as a series of conversations about theory, experience of resistance and possibilities of hope told in the interviews and conversations. We have drawn from our own experiences shared with other young activists in dialogue with different theories about social movements, embodied research and youth studies. In the dialogue on 25 April, we will reflect together on the questions above in an interactive fishbowl conversation.

We would like to focus on the doing and being of youth in their own understanding of politics in this specific historical moment. In particular, we look at how youth resistance is creating innovative ways to challenge the contemporary dominant order of things and in this way are creating alternatives to current dominant economic practices.

Examples of youth resistance that will be discussed in the panel include the Spanish ‘Juventud sin futuro’ (Youth without Future) and the group ‘no nos vamos nos echan’ . On the Italian side, we will discuss youth alternatives born in schools, centri sociali and about the precarious generation.

By bringing together the interpretations and narratives as told by youth themselves we aim to displace the gloomy unemployment statistics and economic forecasts and instead present the crisis as forging possibilities for a change of the current social, economic and political order. As the Spanish based movement ‘Youth without Future’ state, they came together first in order to make their plight visible as youth ‘without a home, without a job’, but also as people ‘without fear’ for the future. We see youth not as lost, but rather as building forms of civic innovation; searching for alternative forms of economics, revaluing care, creating places for discussion, and creating new forms of relations. We/they are searching for change, not as part of political parties or organized NGOs or even social movements but rather in their own ways of living precarity and loss and uncertainty. In this, we see youth as going beyond dominant hegemonic ideologies of economics, politics and society and challenging even the idea of what is southern Europe – and what type of futures youth are creating now.

Taekema2Sanne Taekema, Erasmus School of Law

Legal instrumentalism has a bad name: it is criticized for reducing law to a policy instrument for external political or economic goals. During the ISS Dialogue on Civic Innovation Research on April 4, I aim to rehabilitate instrumentalism, at least to some extent, by reinterpreting it from the perspective of pragmatist interactionism. By seeing law as emerging from the interactional expectancies of people towards one another, law is conceptually based on horizontal relationships (building on the theory of Lon Fuller). I will argue that this horizontal orientation can provide a specific version of an instrumental view of law because it pluralizes law’s instrumentality. Law is no longer seen as a policy instrument in the hands of authorities, but as a tool for everyone who makes use of it (making use of John Dewey’s pragmatism). Such a bottom-up account of law as an instrument requires arguing how the purposive activities of people in legal practices shape law as an interactional phenomenon. It also requires an argument on how the horizontal and vertical dimensions of law are connected. This means exploring to what extent law as set by official authority figures in, limits or enables, the different uses ordinary people make of law. Legal mobilization by activist individuals and groups is used to see how the vertical relationship involves bottom-up instrumentalization of law and how this relates to law’s values.

Statements

  1. To give a good account of legal mobilisation, we need to rethink the idea of law merely serving as a policy instrument.
  1. Law does not only consist of rules and is not framed by legal professionals exclusively; we also need to acknowledge and better understand the creative role of citizens and social movements.
  1. Legal mobilization needs to engage with law’s internal values, not work against them.

 

By Ruben Korevaar, Business Development Manager at Simavi

How social and technological innovation support menstrual hygiene management and women empowerment

menstrual hygiene, Uganda, civic innovation

Micro entrepreneur promoting MHM in Uganda (image: Mona van den Berg)

Increasingly women participate in economic life, generate income and are an important driver for economic development. Girls’ school enrollment is increasing and in many countries more girls pass secondary school certificate than boys. More than ever we have access to various sources of information. However, millions of women and girls still lack information on menstrual hygiene, and lack access to hygienic and affordable solutions to manage their menstruation. In many countries girls and women are being excluded from public life – like going to school or work – because they are having their period. How can social change and technological innovation contribute to turn the tide?

Social constraints for women’s socio-economic participation

We give periods many names like “Aunt Flo,” “time of the month,” “crimson wave” or a number of other weird euphemisms that only serve to mystify and hide the process that women go through every month. Menstruation is a natural and essential part of the reproductive cycle. However, in many parts of the world it remains a taboo that is rarely talked about. These taboos and social norms restrict the participation of women and girls in society during menstruation. In addition, limited access to clean water, proper sanitation facilities and sanitary napkins make it difficult for women to manage their menstruation hygienically. As a result, many (young) women around the world face considerable physical and social challenges during their menstruation period.

Menstruation is a cross-cutting issue that relates to several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), e.g. SDG 3-6. While menstruation issues and menstrual hygiene management have recently gained attention in the global development agenda, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is not specifically mentioned as such in the SDGs.

Social change

Development organisations like Simavi believe that solutions for menstruation issues are vital in empowering women and ensuring basic health conditions. Approaches include:

  • Creating awareness on sexuality, reproductive cycle and menstrual hygiene among girls, women and men in order to empower women to take care of themselves during their menstruation, self-develop and live a healthy life.
  • Creating a supportive environment, in which menstruation is socially accepted and women are not excluded or discriminated because of their monthly periods.
  • Improving access to services, such as sanitary pads and sexual, reproductive health services, as well as sanitation facilities and clean water.

Where NGOs are well-rooted in society and have access to especially the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP), the private sector is a driving force in producing MHM solutions like pads, tampons or menstruation cups. Therefore, a multisector collaboration in addressing menstruation is needed to accelerate change and increase impact.

Innovations to reduce the environmental burden of waste

While promoting MHM and creating access to modern methods, we do not want to create more plastic waste. The average woman uses up to 11,000 pads or tampons during her lifetime. Imagine what this means with regard to the amount of waste in a country like Bangladesh where about 40 million women/girls menstruate.

The role of the private sector is important in looking for innovations and developing environmental friendly alternatives. For example Simavi, together with TNO and a private partner in Bangladesh, is developing and producing biodegradable sanitary napkins. The involvement of the private sector is crucial to ensure supplies can actually be provided in a cost-efficient way and at scale. Looking at sustainability, NGOs can encourage sanitary producers to consider environmental friendly solutions that are also reaching girls and women who have limited resources to spend.

By facilitating social change, working together with the private sector and encouraging technological innovations, NGOs contribute to ensure that all girls and women have comprehensive knowledge of menstrual hygiene, appropriate methods to manage their cycle and are in the position to do so.

I am looking forward to discuss these ideas about technological innovation on this blog and during the ISS Dialogue on Civic Innovation on March 7, 2016!

By Clarisa Perullini & Luciana Comes, Maggacup, Argentina

In our presentation in the next session of the Dialogues on Civic Innovation research on 7 March 2016, we will be looking at the question: How the use of a new menstrual technology can produce social and environmental impacts?

Creating a new feminine habit through technological innovation Maggacup

The inception of the menstrual cup brings a disruption to a standing dominant behavioral pattern that has been imposed by market forces to women, which promotes the idea of consuming disposable products and rapidly getting rid of the ‘annoying issue’ of menstruation by simply wrapping it, absorbing it and throwing it to the garbage. Leaving the consequences of the disposability to another stakeholder: the environment.

With the cup, a woman has the possibility to alleviate the environmental impact caused by this way of managing menstruation and become part of the solution. The cup brings her the possibility to be in charge of the disposal of her own menstrual fluid. By being reusable, the cup offers a simple way to reduce the production of waste: the cup lasts for 5 years with the proper care, and costs the same as the average woman will spend on disposable sanitary protection in ten months.

What Cíclica does is helping women to navigate this change of paradigm, by promoting new interpretations and ways of managing the menstrual cycle.

New Caring Paradigm

“When we love, we care; and when we care, we love”

“Caring is the key category of the new paradigm of civilization that is struggling to emerge all over the world. Caring serves both to prevent future damage and to repair past damage”

Leonardo Boff

We promote three main levels of care that can trigger social and environmental change:

  1. Caring towards each person, encompasses care about the body, the mind and the spirit.

Caring about the body, implies self-care. Developing a better self-esteem and self-knowledge. How to maximize women’s optimal times in the menstrual cycle. The non-toxic and hypoallergenic silicone cup protects the body by inhibiting health risks.

Caring about the mind: this is a technology that promotes well-being and generates self-awareness. It helps re-telling the narratives about menstruation, replacing the rejection and embarrassment for acceptance and respect.

Caring about the spirit: we see the connection to the menstrual cycle as something sacred, not as something dirty or a waste, rather as something that strengthens and connects all women with life.

  1. Caring about the community

We are a B Corporation, whose motto is “to be the best FOR the world” and not “the best OF the world”.

We provide different kinds of trainings in order to create value and awareness of the importance of menstruation and its impact on health, education, the environment and the economy.

  1. Care about the environment

Besides reducing plastic waste production, in what has to do with the manufacture of the menstrual cups, no trees are cut or used. Plus none of our activities include animal testing.

With our sales we have already achieved to preserve (until February 2016) 14,000 m2 of the Misiones jungle with the help of the Forest Bank foundation. This is possible due to our commitment to make a donation to this foundation for each Maggacup that is purchased.

What Maggacup promotes

Maggacup offers workshops and programs to different sectors of our society: entrepreneurs’ festivals, cooperatives and educative institutions. To briefly name and explain a few:

The Heritage Love Cycle is a workshop about the menstrual cycle and its role in the construction of the feminine identity within the family system in a transgenerational level.

The “Blood life. Wisdom of Humanity” Where menstruation is explored from different artistic manifestations.

menstruation, menstrual technologies, civic innovation, India, protest

Learning that ‘Menstruation is not an illness’ (picture from a protest in Kolkata, India)

Menstru-action A program for students about sexual, reproductive and sustainable health.

Women’s Empowerment Program It is a strategy which is presented to the community through arts, communications and business tools.

We are developing the “Cíclica Observatory” on which we are making agreements with local universities to build and systematize knowledge about the experiences of women concerning a dignified management of menstrual health.

We are looking forward to discussing these ways to promote civic innovation through menstrual technology with you during the ISS Dialogue on 7 March!

International Institute of Social Studies

CIRI aims to scale up and identify synergies between existing research at ISS on civic agency and change agents, as drivers of societal change and development. This blog is a forum on which to share and discuss themes and issues which fall within the broad framework of the programme.

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