Microfinance is essentially social, but its expansion and evolution towards diversified financial services for those who are excluded from the conventional system has compelled it to develop new codes and practices to reinforce the message that its goal is people - particularly the poor.
Misogyny is the word on the lips of women trade unionists in Latin America when asked what they have had to fight against to win spaces in the leadership bodies of labour unions in the region.
Chagas disease, the third most serious infectious disease in Latin America, is developing a “new face” and moving into urban areas, while a new treatment may offer hope for millions of sufferers.
Following the extreme neoliberalism of the Washington Consensus, which gave rise to a lost decade in social terms, Latin America is experimenting more successfully with a home-grown formula: the Brasilia Consensus, which combines the market economy and social inclusion.
Sunday’s elections in Venezuela will determine whether the era of President Hugo Chávez's Bolivarian revolution will continue or come to an end. The result will have an impact not only on this country but on the rest of Latin America.
Whoever wins Venezuela's presidential elections on Sunday Oct. 7 will do so as a result of the idea of social inclusion, which has become dominant in an electorate whose social and political features have changed radically in the last decade.
"We were used to losing, so a group of us said to ourselves: let's lose something here," said Carmen Caravallo, describing the start of a "bankomunal", a self-managed microfinance fund based on investment, in her rural community in eastern Venezuela.
“Our raison d’etre is incorporating women in development, and especially in the benefits of development,” says Nora Castañeda, an economist who has headed the Banmujer bank in Venezuela since it was founded in 2001.
"It changed our lives" is a sentiment frequently heard from commuters who use Metrocable, the aerial cable car system that connects one of the poor hillside neighbourhoods in the Venezuelan capital with the city’s public transport system.
"Sometimes I think of giving it all up,” Aura Canache, a small farmer in Venezuela, told IPS. “My neighbours get loans and aid, but I never have. The farm assistance plans are for men, although there are many women living off the countryside too.”
Gender responsive budgeting (GRB), a U.N. Women tool to curb inequality, "helps you think about people...and to use resources in a more effective manner," says Lorena Barba.
"Women didn't want to be slaves any more, or work professionally at what they were trying to liberate themselves from," renowned Venezuelan chef Helena Ibarra told IPS, explaining why women have taken so long to compete in a workplace as symbolically feminine as the kitchen.
The digital revolution is turning people into producers, as well as consumers, of media content. But this new reality has yet to be fully assimilated, and journalists face questions and uncertainties about their social role, their duties and also their rights.
"One day more, one day less," says María Lourdes Afiuni when she says hello or goodbye to her thousands of followers on Twitter. The Venezuelan judge has spent the last eight months in prison, because she decided that a defendant should be released on bail pending trial.
The Venezuelan government put a chokehold on the foreign exchange system by closing down the "parallel" currency market, which in a country so heavily dependent on imports may stifle an economy already plagued by recession, inflation and shortages of certain products.