Dr. Caroline Shenaz Hossein is Associate Professor of Global Development and Political Science at the University of Toronto Scarborough. She is Founder of Diverse Solidarity Economies (DiSE) Collective pushing for equitable economies. She holds an Ontario Early Researcher Award (2018-2023) and her project “African origins in the Social Economy” was funded by the SSHRC (2017-2020). She is the 2022 Postgrowth Fellow alongside global activists and changemakers fighting for new inclusive economies. In 2021, she delivered the Big Thinking Lecture for the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, “Canada’s hidden cooperative system.” Dr. Hossein is an elected board member to the International Association of Feminist Economics, academic advisor at Oxford University Press and an editorial board member to the U.N. Task Force for the Social and Solidarity Economy. She is the author of the multi award-winning Politicized microfinance (2016), co-author to Critical Introduction to Business and Society (2017) and editor of The Black Social Economy (2018), as well as numerous book chapters and articles, and her co-edited book Community Economies in the Global South by Oxford University Press will be out next year.
Title: The Banker Ladies and the future of economic cooperation
Abstract: Black women in the African Diaspora engage in solidarity economies through a specific form of mutual aid – formally referred to as Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCAs) – to meet their livelihood and social needs. These women call themselves the Banker Ladies, and the ROSCAs they run are rooted in equity, mutual aid and self-help. The members, mostly women, decide on the rules and processes of how to make regular contributions to a fund that is given in whole or in part to each member in turn. Banker Ladies draw on ancient African traditions of Tontines and Susu that are purposefully informal and prioritize the collective. Canada has a rich history of cooperativism, and Canadian policymakers are called on to support solidarity economies, and to ensure there is space for Black cooperators by creating a Global ROSCA Network. This lecture draws on empirical work that involves hundreds of Black women in five Caribbean countries, women in the Black Canadian diaspora in Toronto and Montreal, as well as field work in Ghana and Ethiopia to locate the cooperative contributions of people of African descent. To understand cooperativism in international development, means situating Black political economy as a theoretical framework. The Black Social Economy challenges global solidarity movements to ensure that there is space for Black women cooperators. By valuing these informal cooperative institutions, and acknowledging the expertise of Banker Ladies, this can help build an inclusive economy, bridge the gap of inequity here and elsewhere, and by extension revolutionize Canadian international development policy.