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Updated on November 13, 2014

Empowers Girls and Women Worldwide

Coops are very common in the State of Minnesota. In fact Minnesota has more coops than any other American state. When I was a child, I was first introduced to coops when I visited Bemidji's Harmony Food Coop. In Minneapolis we have many types of coops: food, artisan, workers, business, child care and health care.

A cooperative (coop) is a voluntary association where people pool resources, social and financial, for the benefit of the group. Coops are a little bit of democracy, capitalism and socialism mixed together. Coops help empower people to better their economic, cultural, social or spiritual circumstances.

What about female coops which are governed by women and girls? Women often develop food, child care, health care, artisan and sewing coops for their greater benefit. They can pool their resources so that they can increase family income. As a collective they have greater bargaining power when selling their goods to various enterprises and individuals.

Women can save money towards their children's education for elementary, secondary and college school attendance. This is the only way many girls and women have to achieve an education outside the family.

Women do not always have access to capital to start coops by themselves. Non profits and church organizations often contribute start up capital to help women start coops. Female leadership needs to be fostered and encouraged through training and mentoring from other women. Laws are not always favorable in some countries towards women's empowerment.

India has different female coops. One of the most successful types of female coops is the sewing or artisan/crafts coop. Women pool their resources to start the coops. They sell their goods in India and to Western countries, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Europe and Australia.

Mumbai is one of the favorite locations for female coops in India. Over half the population live in poverty in the slums in Mumbai. Sewing and embroidery coops are very popular with women all over the world. Many women and girls love to buy beautiful Indian clothing. Marigold Fair Trade Clothing is one coop in Mumbai which has a store in the Bandra area. The coop also sells good to nearby villages and towns right out of their van which travels around to various communities. Women who can't sew join Asli Foods which sells lunches to offices in the business districts. Women elect a manager who administers each group of women within the coop. They hire women to do bookkeeping and marketing of the goods. They have social services which help women in the coop. They provide child care for the women in the coop. The coop has a credit and savings organization in addition to social gatherings and programs of interest to women. There is a general assembly meeting twice a year to decide general matters of all the groups of women within the coop.

Another interesting model is the single female who starts a business with family capital which follows the cooperative model. Manish Gupta started a female coop called Handmade Expressions in 2005 in India. She decided to help empower women in rural places where no coops existed. The coop's products are sustainable fair trade crafts, such as clothing and artisan goods. They provided training to the women. Eventually their practices in each community become environmental as possible. They use environmental materials (as much as possible) which can be recycled or composted. Their packaging is recycled saris. Discarded saris are used to create a bag. Very creative and unique idea, very specific to India. They use cotton for fabric and natural wax on their wood products, such as varnish. They weave recycled plastic into clothing. The coop partners with surrounding communities in providing solar lamps, education for women, water filtration and conservation systems, health projects and skills workshops.

These are just two examples of coops which exist in India. Female coops exist in many countries worldwide. The cooperative model can be adopted by any culture, country or group. It can be very traditional or very creative and unique. Many coops start small and develop into larger entities.

Non profits and church groups also use the cooperative model, such as Ten Thousand Villages. Church members from various denominations volunteer selling goods from Third World countries in Western countries in retail stores, besides having on line businesses. St. Paul, Minnesota has a Ten Thousand Villages store. Most of the profits go to the artisans, sewers and crafts people from Third World countries. Many women sell their goods through Ten Thousand Villages besides men. This model can be used anywhere to promote self empowerment for low income people.

Food coops in Minneapolis and St. Paul sell goods from Third World countries and the artisan or crafts person retains a good profit from sales through the coops. This is another model which could be used anywhere in the world. The majority of artisans, crafts people and sewers are female who sell goods through the food coops.

Very happy to see so many successful female coops all over the world. Remember the woman of the household is the wealth of the household. When she prospers the whole family prospers. Coops are a great opportunity for a woman to empower herself and her family.




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