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Stronger together: Celebrating the power of women's cooperatives

Graduates of the Women for Women International-Nigeria programme who have formed a pre-cooperative group. They carry out trading activities together, and hope to grow their business and travel around the country to trade. Photo: Monilekan
Graduates of the Women for Women International-Nigeria programme who have formed a pre-cooperative group. They carry out trading activities together, and hope to grow their business and travel around the country to trade. Photo: Monilekan.

July 3rd is International Cooperatives Day, and we're celebrating the power of women's collective enterprises to transform lives and communities.

In the communities where we work in rural Nigeria, poverty and gender discrimination mean that most women farmers can’t grow enough to sell and generate an income - they’re struggling just to feed themselves and their families each day. If they do go into business, women entrepreneurs face huge challenges and risks.

Cooperatives are powerful vehicles for women’s economic empowerment. By joining forces rather than operating alone, rural women can boost their productivity and incomes – and transform their lives.

As part of our Stronger Women, Stronger Nations programme, women learn about cooperative management as well as business basics like bookkeeping, budgeting and marketing. They are supported to form independent, democratic organisations to pursue shared goals. Under the principles of a cooperative, all members contribute equally and actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
 
Working as a group, women farmers can pool resources to buy seeds, tools and fertilisers. They can work together to market their produce and access loans to grow their business. Profits are distributed equally among members. With their earnings, women are able to pay for healthcare, send children to school, and buy productive assets like land or livestock.
 
 

I joined a women's farmers group where we take turns to assist one another on our farms. This was a huge turn around for my family and I.

Rauta, Women for Women International-Nigeria programme graduate

THE SOCIAL BENEFITS OF COOPERATIVES

Cooperatives don’t just generate profits – they also give marginalised women greater power and resilience. Members use their collective voice to advocate for their rights and act as a vital support network for each other during difficult times.
 
When COVID-19 lockdowns decimated livelihoods in northern Nigeria last year, cooperatives made up of our programme graduates rallied around their most vulnerable members to provide emergency funds for food, medication and other essentials.
 
In one case, Zainab, a cooperative member in Bauchi State, was juggling severe financial challenges, a sick child, and constant arguments with her husband which led her to move out of the family home.  The members of her cooperative group stepped in to provide financial support and raise funds for her son's treatment. They assisted in settling the family conflict, so she could return home. 

Anthonia's story

Anthonia, age 45, is a graduate of our programme in Nigeria and president of the cooperative she formed with her classmates.

"After my husband died, his relatives tried to make me remarry one of them. When I refused they made my life difficult. The money I made from selling my crops would often be taken away from me by the men in the family. I tried to earn an income making brooms, but my profit was just 500 Naira ($1.22) per week. With this amount, I had to feed myself and four children. Life was very hard, so hard that I sometimes wished I would die.
 
The programme has made a big difference to my life. I learnt poultry farming and I now make an income through rearing chickens. I joined a cooperative with other women from the programme and I am the president of my group. We bought 50 chickens and sold them at a profit of 38,000 Naira ($92). We now have 100 birds which we are planning to sell soon."
Women for Women International-Nigeria programme participants are trained in poultry farming and learn how to establish and manage a cooperative business.Photo: Sefa Nkansa
Women for Women International-Nigeria programme participants are trained in poultry farming and learn how to establish and manage a cooperative business.Photo: Sefa Nkansa

We bought 50 chickens and sold them at a profit of 38,000 Naira ($92). We now have 100 birds which we are planning to sell soon.

Anthonia, Women for Women International-Nigeria programme graduate

Investing in women's collective strength

By fostering self-sufficiency, solidarity and equity, cooperatives help some of the most marginalised women on earth to advance their power and build sustainable pathways out of poverty.
 
That’s why we’re thrilled that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are helping us train even more women survivors of war in the skills they need to grow successful cooperative businesses. A new award of £450,000, generously raised by players, will be used to help 1,200 women in northern Nigeria and Afghanistan to improve their incomes and seize their rights by working together for change.
 
Since 2018, players of People’s Postcode Lottery have contributed an incredible £1.87m to support programmes worldwide – transforming the lives of thousands of women, their families and communities. A huge thank you to everyone who plays!

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