Those of us fortunate enough to work alongside Moroccan women on a daily basis have seen the power of the Cooperative in their lives. Read more here from an article commissioned by Magharebia. http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2010/09/30/feature-02
Morocco co-operatives strengthen female independence.
By Siham Ali 2010-09-30
Co-operatives are changing the lives of women, teaching them new skills and rewarding them with financial freedom. Many women in rural areas of Morocco have joined female-only co-operatives and taken their destiny into their own hands. The businesses have changed their lives completely, providing the women with their own income and increasing their self-esteem.
In the Souss-Massa-Draa region, for example, thousands of women have joined forces for a tree cultivation project. Nezha Aktir, a graduate of Agadir University, decided in 2004 that she would help women in her region by setting up the Tifaout Women's Agricultural Co-operative, which has 72 members. She admitted that revenue is still modest, but previously these women were earning virtually nothing. "There are no clubs for women. They go the whole year round with nothing to do. Hence the idea of setting up this co-operative so that they can receive a financial benefit and meet other people," said Khadija Benchich, chairperson of the Adrar co-operative.
Sociologist Hamid Bekkali says that co-operative work enables women in rural areas to open up to the outside world and to build on their skills, even though the men were reluctant to accept the idea at first. "Women had to be patient in order to change their daily lives," Bekkali explained. "Women in rural areas have always worked hard, but have never been able to have a tangible income." "The organisation of women into co-operatives is an important turning point which has given women financial independence and the power to take decisions," she added. "This has a positive effect on family life and children's education. Women in rural areas have become real actors in local development."
The co-op employees also receive tuition for literacy classes and training in other skills, including business organisation and marketing for their products. "At the start, my husband was suspicious. He didn't want me to work in a co-operative. Despite that, I decided to go down this route. After a few months, he came to realise the value of my decision," Zahra Tasskifet, a mother of four, said. She added that the income she earns helps to provide education for her children.
According to Moroccan government statistics, the proportion of co-operatives run by women has risen from 2.14% in 1995 to 12.5% in 2010. There are now more than 7,000 co-operatives in the Kingdom, representing 360,600 members. "The ministry of economic and general affairs has shown a great interest in the sector. The idea is to promote local products and enable co-operatives to market their products with much greater room for manoeuvre than in the past, when intermediaries would minimise the workers' earnings," said economist Reda Bachaoui.
Fatima, a mother of three, was desperate to tell Magharebia how she became a different person after starting work with the co-operative, earning around 1,000 dirhams (90 euros) a month. "In the rural area where we live, that's a very attractive income for a woman. I feel my life has changed. I'm not totally submissive any more. I feel stronger and I've got a lot more self-esteem because my efforts are being rewarded," Fatima said.