Across villages like Mormi, you would often find women doing most of their daily chores together in groups and communities. They feel when they are together, work seems much easier and enjoyable. This sense of solidarity and unity will be amplified when these women are formally organized into a formal cooperative to run their businesses.
According to research conducted by the International Labour Organization focusing on socio economic development, cooperatives help in building a peaceful society, in generating higher returns, and addressing needs of communities and local concerns. Values of self-help, equality, equity, democracy, social responsibility and caring for others, are expressed, and shared when people facing similar problems, come together to work in cooperatives. It is found that working together in cooperatives result in an increased self-esteem and a sense of solidarity and support, particularly in times of need.
For Nepal, the idea of cooperatives as a tool for enabling development and a source of people’s empowerment started, in 1950. This was followed by a formation of Department of Cooperatives in 1953, and the first formal cooperative through Rapti Valley Development Project – a US supported project – in 1957. Since then more and more cooperatives have come into existence, and as of now, there are 34,713 formally registered cooperatives in Nepal and the number continues to increase every year (Department of Cooperatives, 2017). The new Constitution of Nepal has acknowledged the cooperative sector as one of the three pillars for national development.
Organizing our women entrepreneurs into cooperatives will not only help for social economic reasons but also in their businesses. Essentially, a cooperative would help develop a larger network for these women that would further bring more and more opportunities. For example, women employed in Dhaka Weaving could greatly benefit from a parallel sector, for instance Tailoring. Practices such as sharing of resources, knowledge, ideas, and experiences, could greatly benefit our women to work better, and in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
In addition to the soft aspects and benefits of cooperatives, a study conducted by Mckinsey, also found that in the longer run, cooperatives have a similar growth rate to that of public companies. With a focus on increasing profits for the entrepreneurs, the cooperative will also promote self-reliance and self-sufficiency among the entrepreneurs. The aim is to establish a not distributing profit firm, named as “Amma Foundation” to support women entrepreneurs in the Lumbini region to increase their product sales and demand through market linkages and skill development for the specified sectors:
- Bee Farming – Honey Production
- Mushroom farming
- Dhaka Weaving
- Thatch Grass – Handicrafts
- Amma Café – Shanti Deep, Lumbini Development Trust
To further support the women in their business endeavors, six mentors, one from each sector, will sit on an advisory board to provide guidance and support in the development and promotion of their businesses. Thus, given the supporting rationale and evidence and a supporting cast of experts, organizing the women entrepreneurs into a cooperative was made. Such a setup will help sustaining their businesses in the longer run while ensuring self-sufficiency and independence in their operations.