In the face of shrinking social services and increased social need, women’s community work faces several challenges. One challenge is the organizational strain of attempting to meet increased needs in the face of restructured public services that have weakened the state’s response to social need. A second challenge is that as the resources to support this work are reduced, they are also retargeted in ways that support a program delivery focus on individual responsibility. While on the one hand, women’s organizations aim to alter an inequitable distribution of resources that makes their community work essential for survival (Erbaugh, 2002; Jaggar, 2005; Naples, 1992; Susser, 1988), on the other hand, they find themselves limited, squeezed and regulated into focusing their services in ways that are consistent with a reconfigured citizenship in which individuals are responsible for their own material provision (Finn, 2002; Hyatt, 2001; Molyneux, 2002; Schild, 2000). A central dilemma facing women’s organizations is that even as women challenge the erosion of social citizenship, their provisioning work can become a substitute for public resources and a tool for assigning individual responsibility. In this qualitative analysis of the collective provisioning work that women undertake in community groups, we explore the connections and paradoxes in that work, particularly with regard to understanding the notion of citizenship, what constitutes participation in citizenship activities and how women challenge market citizenship. In this discussion, the changing nature of what constitutes strategic activities for marginalized citizenry is also taken up.
Keywords: CitizenshipCommunityOrganizational StrainProvisioningSupportsWomenWomen's WorkCommunity Work