Women’s Economic Empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa: Cooperatives as a Vehicle to Economic Opportunity

If you have not yet had a chance to read OCDC’s introductory blog post on the Women’s Economic Empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa (WEE-SSA) research initiative, listing key research partners, do check it out! This blog, the second in the WEE-SSA series, will draw a few key findings from the scoping study and discuss how cooperatives relate to women’s economic empowerment by highlighting work of OCDC’s member organizations, supported by the USAID Cooperative Development Program. Thank you for visiting this post, and be sure to subscribe to our mailing list for more resources like this!

Scoping Study Recap & Cooperatives’ Impact on WEE in SSA.

The Scoping Study was the first step in the WEE-SSA research process and included all countries sampled in the study:

The next section highlights four key thematic findings from the scoping study and links the findings to the impact of cooperatives in women’s economic empowerment in these sectors. The examples leveraged of OCDC members’ work highlight the impact of cooperatives in diverse sectors and countries across the region, and their support for women’s economic empowerment.

Since 2018, the GENEX Cooperative Development Program in South Africa has provided agricultural training to 230 women farmers. 1,537 women members can also now access inputs and services previously not available. Moreover, as co-ops establish technical, non-traditional roles, women find new opportunities to assert themselves and demonstrate the value they bring to agriculture and their communities. An example is the Ikhephu Co-op Artificial Insemination service, led by an influential woman farmer. Another is that of the managers at each of the 13 co-ops engaged by GENEX and its partner co-op boards, 10 are women selected for their recognized capabilities.

Under USAID INVEST, WOCCU’s GLI4CUs project piloted a Gender Lens Investing (GLI) methodology in partnership with UM-PAMECAS, a credit union network in Senegal of about 861,088 members. As of June 2021, the project’s four pilot credit unions reach 1,272 women members. This methodology provides credit unions with tools to better serve women entrepreneurs’ and increase their access to capital, including through:Improving credit products and processes: UM-PAMECAS piloted new credit terms to loosen collateral and deposit requirements on credit products for women.Supporting businesses and their formalization: UM-PAMECAS offered training on entity creation and credit guarantees under commercial law to better equip credit agents in guiding members on the transition from informal to formal businesses.Expanding women’s networking opportunities and leadership skills: UM-PAMECAS established a Sister Society and is working towards official recognition by the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN.)Monitoring of sex-disaggregated data: Pilot credit unions are using GLI Toolkit indicators with customized targets to track progress against gender goals.Implementing a Gender Strategy: UM-PAMECAS started drafting its official gender commitment as part of an institutional policy.

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