Global Programs

Advancing women’s participation in co-ops is at the center of NCBA CLUSA’s Cooperative Development Project

The Prosperidad de Chirinos Co-op in Peru prioritizes women’s leadership.

Gender equity and social inclusion, alongside cooperative ecosystem strengthening, are pivotal strategies of NCBA CLUSA’s  Cooperative Ecosystem and Social Inclusion (CESI) project, funded through USAID’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP), to strengthen cooperatives’ capacity and advance its cooperative development objectives. Building upon the foundations laid by the previous Creating an Environment for Cooperative Expansion (CECE) project, CESI remains committed to promoting women’s inclusion, empowerment, and leadership within cooperatives across various avenues. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we highlight progress made towards enhancing women’s participation in cooperatives during CDP/CECE, efforts that CESI will continue in its four core countries: Guatemala, Kenya, Madagascar, and Peru.

In Kenya, CDP/CECE’s team facilitated the amendment of bylaws in eight Meru and Nandi Counties dairy cooperatives to mitigate barriers hindering women’s inclusion and leadership opportunities. These changes in these cooperatives’ bylaws, together with ongoing membership drives, have seen over 700 women new members and 23 women elected to leadership roles, reaching 23.9 percent and 33.75 percent of women participation in membership and leadership, respectively, under our previous CDP project. Capital SACCO, a CECE, and CESI partner continues to expand its financial literacy and lending program for women, which reached over 475 participants receiving loans totaling 6.9M KES ($57K USD)

In Peru, a notable endeavor supported by CDP/CECE is Dulce Esperanza, a group formed by approximately 40 incarcerated women in Quillabamba aiming to grow their chocolate business. Despite several challenges, their determination has led them to showcase their products internationally, empowering themselves and their families. With the right support, including capacity strengthening and facilitating access to market linkages and technical expertise via CDP/CESI, Dulce Esperanza aspires to increase sales from 1,200 to 7,000 bars this year.

In Guatemala, Atitlan Recicla, an indigenous women’s recycling cooperative, has received sustained assistance from NCBA CLUSA through its CDP project since before its inception in 2021. Through training in cooperative governance, management, and business development, Atitlan Recicla’ has developed a strategic plan and explored partnerships for plastic recycling and value addition. Workshops conducted with Atitlan Recicla focused on creating manuals and regulations to ensure compliance with operational requirements, contributing to the cooperative’s sustainability and growth. CDP/CESI will continue to support this inspiring women-led cooperative so they can better serve their members and pursue their mission of protecting Lake Atitlan’s natural environment.

There was a significant challenge in Madagascar regarding women’s participation in cooperatives. To address this issue, a strategic initiative was undertaken during the CECE project to promote equality within cooperative structures, focusing on actively engaging women and youth. Actions included revising bylaws for equal representation, empowering women and youth in governance, and forming women’s committees, notably within the ROVA Co-op Union. Creating a gender equality committee during their general assembly aimed to bolster collaboration and women’s leadership in the ROVA Co-op Union. Results showed a tangible impact, with a notable increase in female membership: 30% in primary cooperative management committees, 50% on boards in 11 primary cooperatives, and 40% on surveillance committees. This diversity contributed to a significant boost in milk production, elevating members’ incomes and livelihoods.

Aligned with the 2023 USAID Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy, the CDP/CESI project finalized a Gender Analysis and Action Plan that embeds gender equity and social inclusion throughout its activities. By implementing training using NCBA CLUSA’s Women’s Inclusion, Empowerment, and Leadership in Cooperatives (WIELCOOP) Training of Trainers Guide, CESI will challenge counterproductive perceptions of women’s participation in cooperatives and demonstrate the financial benefits of their inclusion in cooperatives. Through tailored training and coaching activities, the project aims to bolster women’s participation in cooperative membership, leadership, and business activities, advocate for cooperative legal reforms, and raise awareness among women about the benefits of cooperative membership, fostering cooperatives’ sustainable operations that benefit families, communities, and the environment.

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