Building Economic Opportunity for Women in La Plata, Argentina

Arvil project.jpgArvil Antonio Gonzalez

Host Organization: La Estrategia del Caracol

FSD Grant from PDCB Fund: $869

Host Community Donation: $350

Thirty blocks from the center of La Plata is a marginalized neighborhood of hastily-built houses so underdeveloped that its dirt roads are frequently flooded or choked with piles of garbage, severely limiting police, fire and emergency medical access. Many of the large households in the area have only a single, modest source of income earned by a male family member. Women are generally prevented from finding employment due to their household responsibilities.

My work with FSD was for a comedor – La Estrategia del Caracol – a community center and food kitchen that provides desperately needed meals to impoverished families in the neighborhood. The comedor relies on government subsidies that are a scarce and severely lacking in food quality. Our solution was to collaborate with members of the comedor to design a bread-baking cooperative that provides local women with jobs and allows La Estrategia greater economic autonomy from the government.

The comedor was already in possession of an environmentally friendly, mixed-material oven constructed in September of 2007 with assistance from another FSD partner – Biosfera. Several community members contributed in-kind support through building a sturdy table, installing light fixtures, and constructing a sink with materials purchased from FSD's PDCB Fund.

After the cooperative began operation, another FSD intern, Jennifer Drapisch, led two small workshops. The first addressed business-related questions and concerns, marketing and financial record-keeping strategies and the second addressed sustainability practices and future expansion. An average of 9 women from the community attended both workshops and more than 15 families were directly involved and impacted by the project. In total, an estimated 700+ families have indirectly benefited from the comedor’s increased capacity to serve the community.

Future interns can focus on the expansion of the cooperative and its operations, especially since more members of the community are expected to want to participate once the initial members begin to show a noticeable profit. Interns could also work with other comedors in La Estrategia’s network to replicate the project.

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