Fellow Since 1996
Movimiento Paulina Luisi
This profile was prepared when Maria Cristina Sosa Schneider was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Cristina Sosa noticed a profound anomaly in Uruguay's human services that gave birth to her idea: while local staff were predominantly by women, organizational authority was highly centralized and in the hands men. From her rural perspective, she was particularly concerned about the way that policies and practices designed from urban centers for urban realities were applied throughout the countryside, with little room for adjustment to local conditions. Rather than begin a thankless battle against the hierarchy, she created an organization that offered two much-welcomed services to local organizations in the child care field: women's leadership training and a national exchange of information/experience among local human service organizations (something unheard of before Cristina's intervention). As important as the services themselves, Cristina believes, is the "point of view" from which they are offered. Cristina explains, "Working through the common problems of women in social care organizations, we enable them to discover and share new solutions, new actions that they can take–even without 'permission' from Montevideo. This process builds self-esteem and eventually a whole new self-identity of local women–staff and community members–as the key actors in human services. Needless to say, the process has profound implications for the traditional relationship between the state and the local human services providers." The next step for Cristina is to expand on her progress within the child care field and reach out to the wider women's movement, and to other human services fields, such as juvenile care and welfare relief.