Advice for the Bosses of the World
“True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the “rejects of life,” to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands -- whether of individuals or entire peoples -- need to be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human hands which work, and working, transform the world.”
(Ch 1: Pedagogy of the Oppressed; Freire 1993)
Some advice for business owners:
Cover the health needs of your employees. Ensure that their children are provided an adequate education. Build an ergonomic work environment. Arrange weekly potluck dinners, sharing circles, fun outings, and celebrations for all of their festivals. Allow your employees to build their own work schedule, and be understanding when they fall short of deadlines. Loan them whatever necessities they lack, and allow them to slowly pay you back using the money they will earn from you.
When maximizing profits is the primary focus of business, human beings become merely another factor to exploit and oppress for the sake of efficiency. Such an ideology sustains the image of business as an instrument of inequality and oppression. Instead mankind must be the sole motivation of business. Human beings must be held up as the most valuable asset, never to be sacrificed for the sake of efficiency or profit. The business should and must mold itself around their needs and the needs of each community it impacts.
This is the model adopted by GramShree, a business which employs underprivileged women who cannot leave the home, and buys and sells the garments and other beautiful works of art and cultural significance that they create in their homes. Many of these women do not have a voice in their families. GramShree helps them to empower themselves by depositing their money into a bank account that is unavailable to their husbands. This ensures that the money is invested back into the children and the home.
Beyond this, GramShree institutes every one of the policies listed above. Their main objective is to improve the lives of their employees, not through charity, but through work and the dignity that invariably follows it. The women who work for GramShree gain income, a voice in their homes, increased health for their children and families, a brighter home life, and dignity and empowerment. I want to emphasize, as GramShree did during our visit to their office, that this is not a charity. It is a business which is run efficiently and with the value of human dignity in mind.
Furthermore, it follows, precisely, Freire’s model of true generosity, wherein the extended hands truly become “human hands which work, and working, transform the world” (Freire 93). The employees lives’ are brightened; they begin to play an active role in the direction of their lives. They step out of their role as oppressed and become full human beings. And this is all a result of their own hard and diligent work for a better world. Business is an incredibly powerful agent for change. If GramShree’s approach was applied to every company in the world, the cycle of oppressors and oppressed may finally be broken. Human dignity is intimately tied with self-reliance. And in this world, self-reliance is intimately tied with economic empowerment.
Businesses, and especially Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) departments around the world, have much to learn from GramShree’s model.