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PhD defence Christina Osorio

Enhancing maya women's development through cooperative associations: what factors support or restrict the contribution of cooperatives? 

Christina Osorio is a PhD Student in the research Department of Governance and Technology for Sustainability. Her supervisor is professor Hans Bressers of the Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences (BMS). 

With the aim of contributing to the development of Mayan women living in the Yucatan Peninsula, this research focused on determine the factors that support or inhibit the sustainability of micro-businesses cooperatives, which are organizations with innovative elements that allow Mayan women to work within their communities with flexible schedules, which contributes to family unity, strengthening their self-esteem and community recognition. However, many of these initiatives hardly remain in the market, due to this, the research investigated the motivations of the Mayan women to undertake these micro-businesses, the elements of success that indicate the best practices in this type of initiatives, the implementation process of a national and foreign fund using Contextual Interaction Theory as a frame of reference and, finally, the contribution of cooperatives to the food sovereignty of Mayan women.

This dissertation is divided into chapters whose elements are described as follows:

Chapter 1 provides an overview of the study presenting the theoretical framework and methodology selected, as well the research questions which guided the dissertation. The theoretical framework was diverse, with a strong influence of the Theory of Social Economy in relation to Buen Vivir, which is a cosmogonic vision of the indigenous peoples, where the human being is interrelated with the environment, taking into account that natural resources are indispensable for their survival. The reflections of Freire, Seglow, Bandura and Simon among others, enriched this work which maintained a perspective of gender equity and social inclusion.

Chapter 2 reflects on the motivations of the women participating in these micro-businesses cooperatives, which go beyond of obtaining an additional income, the women think and make choices as mothers in a constant search for the well-being of their children, although sometimes, forgetting their own. The education and nutrition of their children are their priority, working to avoid family disintegration as a consequence of the migration of their husbands and sons, which are also relevant factors.

Chapter 3 describes success stories found in the region, considering success in relation to business sustainability over time. These cases were distinguished by continuing in the market, which was confirmed until the end of this investigation. The elements found were social capital, understood as support networks that benefited the permanence of micro-business in the market, monitoring or follow-up activities carried out by representatives of the organizations that supported these initiatives economically, and ethical leadership, which represents an alternative of doing businesses based on honest work in counterpart with the serious problems of corruption that Mexican society has to dealt with.

Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 are complementary, since they serve to make a comparison between the implementation of national and international funds in the same region. Both are productive programs whose beneficiaries were indigenous Mayan women living in rural areas. The programs analyzed were the Program of Productive Organization for Indigenous Women (POPMI), which was administered by the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) a program which was part of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). CIDA was a Canadian federal agency which, until 2013, promoted female entrepreneurship initiatives among Maya women in the Yucatan Peninsula. Both programs were analyzed using Contextual Interaction Theory.

Chapter 6 analyzes the contribution of working in cooperatives to among others the food sovereignty of the participants, with women who work in groups in relation to those who work independently in the same communities. In these villages with strong patriarchal structures, the independence of women is not easily accepted and is even questioned by other women. Because of that, it was interesting to contrast their perceptions on what the work brought them, which deepened the knowledge about self-reliance aspects related to food sovereignty.      

Chapter 7 makes a final reflection in the form of a response to the research questions, formulating recommendations for the implementation of public policies and productive programs both at regional and international levels, taking into account empirical evidence found in field research activities.

This information will be available to the organizations who contribute to the welfare of indigenous women, since entrepreneurship is one of the available ways to foster development.