Racial and Gender Inequality in The Caribbean Paper a) You will select one Global South country or a region in one of the Global South country of your choi

Racial and Gender Inequality in The Caribbean Paper a) You will select one Global South country or a region in one of the Global South country of your choice.b) You will develop a title for your research proposal.c) You will choose three course readings
You will develop social justice oriented, creative and practical research work of 5-pages. Your research work must list all references cited in an appropriate scholarly format, and typed, double-space and stapled. Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics 84:4 2013
pp. 423–442
York University, Toronto, Canada
In a neoliberal world where commercial financial services are controlled by elites, poor Black women in the slums are usually excluded from financial
programs – even microfinance ones. In my empirical study of 491 people in Jamaica,
Guyana and Haiti, I argue that the participation in informal banking systems by the
poor, not only provides coping tools for livelihood survival, but banker ladies insert
a program of social connectedness and political action when they organize these local
resources. Banker ladies have a clear social justice agenda: to validate the business
activities of marginalized people. Informal banks are a counter project to neoliberalism
because it is focused on the collective, where poor Afro-Caribbean women are creating
alternative financial programs that are squarely part of the social economy.
Keywords: Black women, exclusion, informal banks, gender, inequality, politics, social justice.
La economı́a social sumergida: perseverancia de las mujeres banqueras
en las chabolas
En un mundo neoliberal en el que los servicios financieros comerciales son controlados por élites,
las mujeres pobres negras de las chabolas son generalmente excluidas de los programas financieros,
incluso de las microfinanzas. En su estudio empı́rico, sustentado sobre 491 personas en Jamaica,
Guayana y Haitı́, el autor explica que la participación de los pobres en los sistemas bancarios
informales les permite sobrevivir, pero también les ofrece posibilidades de integración social y de
acción polı́tica, gracias a los modos de gestión de los recursos locales propuestos por las mujeres
banqueras. Estas trazan claramente un objetivo de justicia social: ponen en valor las actividades
comerciales de las personas marginadas. La banca informal son la cara opuesta al neoliberalismo, puesto que es el centro de la acción colectiva. Estas pobres mujeres afrocaribeñas están
creando programas financieros alternativos que forman parte muy claramente de la economı́a

Roberta Rice of the University of Guelph and Darryl Reed of York University deserve
much credit for making insightful remarks to this work. I am grateful for the comments of an
anonymous reviewer. I am also grateful for the US Fulbright, University of Toronto’s Center for
International Studies’ and the Royal Bank of Canada for funds that made my field work possible.
E-mail: chossein@yorku.ca
© 2013 The Author
Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics © 2013 CIRIEC. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford
OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
Die schwarze Sozialwirtschaft: Perseveranz von Banker Ladies
in den Slums
In einer neoliberalen Welt, in der kommerzielle Finanzdienstleistungen von Eliten kontrolliert
werden, sind schwarze Frauen in den Slums gewöhnlich von Finanzprogrammen ausgeschlossen,
selbst von Mikrofinanzprogrammen. In meiner Studie, die sich auf 491 Personen in Jamaika,
Guyana und Haiti bezieht, führe ich Gründe dafür an, dass die Beteiligung der Armen an informellen Banksystemen nicht allein ein geeignetes Instrument zur Schaffung von Existenzgrundlagen bietet, sondern dass Banker Ladies ein Programm sozialer Einbindung und politischer
Aktion initiieren, wenn sie diese lokalen Ressourcen organisieren. Banker Ladies haben eine klare
Vorstellung von sozialer Gerechtigkeit: die geschäftlichen Aktivitäten marginalisierter Menschen
anzuerkennen. Informelle Banken sind ein Gegenmodell zum Neoliberalismus; denn sie fokussieren
auf die Gemeinschaft, wobei arme afro-karibische Frauen alternative Finanzprogramme gestalten,
die voll und ganz Teil der Sozialwirtschaft sind.
L’économie sociale souterraine: Persévérance des femmes banquières
dans les bidonvilles
Dans un monde néolibéral où les services financiers commerciaux sont contrôlés par des élites, les
femmes pauvres noires des bidonvilles sont en général exclues des programmes financiers même
de microfinance. Dans son étude empirique portant sur 491 personnes en Jamaı̈que, Guyane et
Haı̈ti, l’auteur explique que la participation des pauvres dans des systèmes bancaires informels
leur permet de survivre, mais leur offre aussi des possibilités de réseautage social et d’action
politique grâce aux mode de gestion des ressources locales proposés par les femmes banquières.
Celles-ci visent clairement un objectif de justice sociale : faire valoir les activités commerciales des
personnes marginalisées. Les banques informelles sont un contre projet au néolibéralisme car elles
sont centrées sur l’action collective. Par celle-ci de pauvres femmes afro-caribéennes sont en train
de créer des programmes financiers alternatifs qui font clairement partie de l’économie sociale.
In the developing world, where communities are subservient to markets, neoliberal
politics has influenced how people live (Reed and Mc Murtry 2009, Sandbrook 2003). This
was not always the case. Karl Polanyi (1944), in his telling of economic history, found
that the economy was first embedded in social relationships, and that business activities
assisted people’s livelihoods. Since the slave trade and later the industrial revolution
there has been a constant shift away from community well-being towards profit-driven
markets. In Civilizing Globalization, Richard Sandbrook (2003) makes a compelling
argument that people are unhappy with the results of market fundamentalism and
there is a need to inject a form of social organizing from the ground up through ‘people
politics’ to humanize markets.
Around the world, poor women are quietly organizing mutual aid groups that
privilege the social life over markets. These women are rethinking ways to organize
commerce in their communities because the formal development programs intended
to assist this group does not reach most people. For instance, Caribbean women are
drawing on African systems of collectivity to organize financial programs for themselves
and others. And though informal banks may not always lead to larger businesses they
© 2013 The Author
Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics © 2013 CIRIEC
are the seed capital people need to start their businesses and to expand operations
in incremental ways. It should be noted that many of the economically-active-poor in
this study use various financial devices to meet their social needs. In Portfolios of the
Poor, Collins et al. (2009, 26), trace hundreds of financial diaries of the poor across
three countries in the developing world, and find that informal banks are an important
financial device for entrepreneurs who cannot access sufficient levels of financing.1 These
informal banking systems do far more than create access to finance (though that is vital
to the lives of these women), they also counter mainstream banking rules and suggest
that there may be locally-led collective institutions that better meet the needs of women.
In Money-Go-Rounds, Ardener and Burman (1996) argue that women rely on informal
banks not only for their business needs but also for social interactions.
Most commercial and conventional banks have rigid terms that make it impossible for many of the entrepreneurial poor to qualify for small loans. Verrest (2013, 68)
in her work in the Caribbean also finds that business development programs, including
microfinance, are unable to adapt to the realities of the micro-entrepreneurs. The disconnect of business managers from the lived realities of the entrepreneurial poor makes
informal financial systems relevant in the lives of this group. Women leaders in slum
communities recognize the inability of formal business programs to reach poor business
people and fill the gap by re-working local financial systems. These women, the banker
ladies, create social connectedness by providing access to finance for excluded people.
Agier and Szafarz (2013) find that even within microfinance programs, which often target poor and economically-active women, that these female clients are limited in terms
of loan sizes they can access. Informal banking systems remain relevant for people who
are financially excluded – even if they do not always grow their businesses.
Informal banks run by poor women are well documented given the need to provide financial services to those who cannot access funds (Ardener and Burman 1996,
Armendáriz and Morduch. 2007, Collins et al. 2009, Mintz 1955, Rutherford 2000).
Many scholars focus on the informal groups engaged in financial services; but they do
not examine the political aspect of these informal institutions. Informal banks give lowincome entrepreneurs access to savings and credit when they are denied access from
formal banking institutions.
In slum communities, where the notion is that there is no wealth, women leaders
are able to mobilize economic resources from the community and to create a bank to
meet the needs of excluded people. This activity of creating an informal bank is indeed a
political act because poor women are showing that there are ways within the social economy to make financing inclusive. Verrest’s work (2013) finds that Caribbean business
development programs are not reaching these micro-entrepreneurs. And, the women
who run these informal banks are called ‘banker ladies’ (the term will vary depending
on country context) are reaching businesspeople with the services they need. Banker
ladies are community leaders, and they are respected women in a poor community by
residents who know and trust them with their life savings.
This article aims to fill a gap in the literature by recognizing the work of poor Black
women who organize informal banks to meet the needs of people in their community.
Informal banks are also referred to as rotating credit and savings associations (ROSCAs)
and they are institutions that are owned by local people (Rutherford 2000).
© 2013 The Author
Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics © 2013 CIRIEC
Caribbean women in particular have been engaged in informal banks since slave times
and they demonstrate that the social economy is a long-lasting tradition. It is important
to examine the banker ladies and their informal banks not only as a means to correct
current financial systems but to understand that they are experimenting with collective
financial systems that are culturally adapted for people’s everyday needs and not the
other way around. In this empirical study, I collected the perspectives of 491 people
with the bulk of interactions with women in the slums of Jamaica, Guyana and Haiti.
I hold that the creation of and participation in informal banks not only provides coping
tools for livelihoods but these informal banks constitute a form of politics of resistance
because marginalized women are using counter systems to make financing localized and
community-driven, and that they are a major contribution to the social economy.
The paper begins with a discussion on the intersectionality framework used to
theorize about how poor women of color turn to informal financial systems to meet their
needs. Then, I explain the methodology in this study to explain the activities of banker
ladies in Jamaica, Guyana and Haiti. The third section is an overview of informal
banks and it situates the experience of Caribbean banker ladies. The fourth section
on the findings of banker ladies gives more contextual details on how these systems
operate. In Jamaica, a highly partisan and classed environment makes way for the
informal banks such as Partner. Urban-based Afro-Guyanese hucksters (vendors) are
discriminated against in formal banking systems and an informal bank, such as Boxhand is extremely relevant for them. Before Haiti’s liberation in 1804 tontines (French
word for informal banks) have provided a means for financial services to slaves and it is
an African tradition that continues to do so in modern day society for the moun andeyo
(excluded masses).
Intersectionality and the social economy
To fully understand and engage with the social economy and the Black experience,
it is important to use a form of theorizing that understands the lived reality of the oppressed people. In culturally diverse environments as the Caribbean region, one cannot
assume identity politics such as race, class and gender do not configure into how resources are managed and distributed. In fact, in this study I found that gender is a more
palatable topic for discussion and one can locate, with relative ease, solid research on
the social, political and economic intersections between women and credit (Armendáriz
and Roome 2008, Maclean 2010, Rankin 2001, 2002, Vonderlack-Navarro 2010). However, analyses of multiple identities – class, race, gender – that operate within the social
economy are rare. The present study includes consideration of the points of intersection
between those identities.
In the Caribbean region, it is difficult to analyze a person’s gender without also
analyzing how race and class also interact (Mohammed 1998, Terborg-Penn 1995, Wane
et al. 2002). Many people in the Caribbean excluded from access to resources are those
of African descendants and using an African lens will focus on the experiences of Black
people. For this reason, I apply an intersectionality theoretical framework in this study
to consider class, gender and race-based implications as it relates to banker ladies and
how despite constraints manage to organize financial services in the slums. Using an
intersectionality framework to explain Black people’s experience in the social economy
© 2013 The Author
Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics © 2013 CIRIEC
is experimental. However, thinkers like Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey have pushed
forward ideas of race in examining development alternatives (Martin 1983). Caribbean
scholar Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (1995) advocates that using an African lens in examining issues affecting Caribbean societies is important because of the deep-seated racism
directed against Black people. By using intersectionality it became apparent in the analysis that the (middle-class and whitened) microfinance and bank managers in Jamaica
and Guyana are socially removed from those entrepreneurs seeking a micro loan. A number of commercialized banks are also offering small business windows but they are not
reaching the lower-tier small business people. Within formalized banking alternatives
for the poor (such as microfinance programs) issues of exclusion are not dealt with, and
informal banks are still relevant as a device for the entrepreneurial poor. Financial exclusion of the urban poor in the Caribbean setting is plausible because identity politics
figures heavily into how privileged managers distribute economic resources to people
in the slums. As a result, the activities of the banker ladies have become increasingly
important in an era of scarce resources and exclusionary politics. Banker ladies draw
on collective African systems across three country contexts and in doing so assert that
there are alternative ways to do banking for marginalized people.
First coined by Kimberle Crenshaw (1991) intersectionaliy theorizing offers an
alternative theory to deconstruct essentialist frameworks that negate Black people, and
to provide a road map to combat underdevelopment (Hancock 2007, Ogundipe 1994,
Oyewùmı́ 1997, Terborg-Penn 1995, Ulysse 2007, Wane et al. 2002). For this project,
intersectional theorizing allowed me to examine Caribbean banker ladies as actors in
their own right and not as a temporary fix but rather as actors constructing informal
financial systems. Critics often find that these informal systems are a raw form of cooperative development; however, in using an African lens one learns that Caribbean banker
ladies are creating viable grass-root banking systems that have persevered outside of
state regulation.
Intersectionality theorizing considers the interaction of identities and in contextualizing the experience this better frames community-based solutions for Black women
(Few 2007, Hancock 2007). Hill Collins (2000) has explained that in Black feminist
thought multiple identities such as race, class, and gender are present in life; yet reconciles that one identity may trump others. To study access to finance issues as a
stand-alone subject without looking at the historical role identities have played in the
Caribbean region is a mistake: it misses, on the part of the researcher, the reasons
why some people are excluded from microfinance. This study brings a nuanced lens to
research in the social economy, one that shows that identities operate differently, as
one case may emphasize class, and another race and intersectional theorizing looks for
answers in local contexts.
Black women and the social economy
Commercial banks have long excluded poor women, and now financial programs for
the poor are either too few or also have exclusionary aspects embedded into their micro
lending programs thus alienating a segment of the urban poor who do not meet their
requirements. In turn, low-income female entrepreneurs react to exclusionary finance
by organizing community-based programs that listen to the needs of people, collects
© 2013 The Author
Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics © 2013 CIRIEC
their savings, and lends monies to them in a consultative manner so they are part of
the process. These informal banks are also grounded in the community, build on selfhelp and are outside the control of local (usually whitened) elites. An intersectionality
framework helps to understand how and why Black women organize these informal
banks as a form of resistance. It allows us to see activities through the eyes of the
banker ladies, who have adapted the African banking systems they inherited from their
ancestors to create a Black social economy.
Many of the Caribbean banker ladies in this study have a clear social justice
agenda: to listen to people, to validate their work and to design a program that is
inclusive. This kind of approach to lending is without a doubt part of the social economy.
Quarter et al. (2009, 4) define the social economy as ‘a bridging concept for organizations
that have social objectives central to their mission and their practice, and either have
explicit economic objectives or generate some economic value through the services they
provide and purchases they undertake’. Ardener and Burman’s (1996) classic work on
women-led informal banks show that these institutions travel from the Third World to
the cities in developed countries when immigrant women bring their local banks to cope
with isolation and at times marginalization. The activity of the banker ladies focused on
the social lives of people and being participatory, which again differs from conventional
banks, is what makes these systems fit into the social economy.
Informal banks like other actors in the social economy strive to create useful
forms of social capital where people are a part of the process to decide how things
occur. To some critics, they may easily discredit informal banks as an underdeveloped
form of cooperative or as a ‘middle-rung institution’ that will disappear once formal
banks become more accessible (Geertz 1962). However, the edited collection of Ardener
and Burman (1996) find that Geertz’s theory that informal banks inevitably become
redundant to be untrue because they find that even in saturated banking markets,
informal banks are prevalent. In fact, it is the informality of these banks that make
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