In January 2001, with the help of the Agency for the Advancement of Women in Timbuktu, a piece of property was deeded, signed, and delivered to the women of Niafunke, a small village near Timbuktu in central Mali. The women then founded the Niafunke Mat Weaving Cooperative. Although the women had secured the land for the cooperative, they did not have the funding to construct a building on the land. TurtleWill, a program run by Irma Turtle, travels to needy countries around the world and helps local tribes improve their own living conditions. The organization provided the funds and aided in the construction of a building for the Niafunke Mat Weaving Cooperative, which produces traditional hand-made mats and sells them for profit. The cooperative uses the profits to purchase new materials, livestock, and food. This photo shows the women of the Niafunke Mat Weaving Cooperative and one of their hand-made mats.
Photo Credit: Irma Turtle, TurtleWill
Though there are several remote and secluded beaches, historic ruins, and numerous cafes and businesses, few tourists visit the village of Skalahori. The villagers are mostly farmers, shepherds, and retirees. The Woman's Cooperative of Traditional and Local Products is located near the church in the center of town. Women and often their children spend their days hard at work, decorating traditional cookies and sweets, packaging trachana, and labeling the large variety of preserved fruits, local olives, olive oils, marzipans, herbs and spices, vinegar, and all sorts of products that cannot be found in the supermarkets and tourist shops of the more popular villages. The olive oil shown in this photo is considered the finest in Greece.
Photo Credit: Greece Travel Guide (www.greecetravel.com)
Africa has some of the most impoverished countries in the world. In Ghana, 78.5 percent of the population lives on less than $2 US dollars a day. Gender is an important dimension of poverty in Ghana, especially in the Northern Region. In rural areas, women are not only responsible for household activities, but also dominate agricultural activities. Global Mamas, whose mission is to reduce the economic inequality of women by increasing revenues and profits of woman-owned businesses in rural Africa, helped Ghanaian women begin cooperatives that design, create, and market traditional crafts and clothing. Women and girls are trained in entrepreneurship of traditional Ghanaian fashion and design, such as tie-dye and batik. When the women complete their apprenticeships, Global Mamas then helps them establish individually-owned businesses. So far, the cooperative has established 16 businesses. Global Mamas also ensures that the female entrepreneurs are paid a "living wage" -- over 10 times Ghana's minimum wage. Members are paid up front for completed products and receive financial assistance through a revolving loan fund for raw materials. In this photo, two apprentices walk home from work.
Source: www.globalmamas.org, EarthTrends, The World Bank Group
Photo Credit: Global Mamas
Women of the San Miguel Cooperative in Nicaragua work together to plant non-traditional crops -- crops that improve nutrition for themselves and their families, but that are not usually grown in great quantities in the countryside. These include plantains, pineapples, peppers, chilies, sugar cane, cocoa, and citrus fruit trees. The women also plant the more traditional food crops of Nicaragua, mainly beans and corn. In addition to growing crops, the cooperative raises chicken and alpacas and hopes to begin a sewing project. The women receive outside help with the materials and design, but they have the long-term responsibility of maintaining the work. The leader, Estebana Romero, shown in the photo inspecting chilies, says that she and her husband now enjoy deciding what to do with their money together, instead of before, when he was the only one to make decisions.
Photo Credit: Mercedes Alvarez for Sustainable Harvest International
Since 1998, Turtle Tours and TurtleWill have been supporting the local Experimental School for Nomadic Children at Tamazalak through the purchase of school supplies, blankets and uniforms, medicine for the community, and yearly repairs to the buildings. In 2002, the women of Tamazalak, in the Region of Agadez, recognized that there was a need for warm, knitted clothing in the winter. They used the Women's Cooperative at Azel, located about 20 kilometers from Agadez, as their model. As a result of relationships forged with the Tamazalak Community, two women's cooperatives were developed: one for basketry and one for sewing and knitting. The purpose of the cooperatives was to teach women in the community of Tamazalak how to make baskets and other items that could be sold commercially, both to the local tourist market as well as in France. The photo shows women in the Tamazalak sewing cooperative.
Photo Credit: Irma Turtle, TurtleWill
During the communist regime, women from Metaj, a small village in central Albania, were milking 25 cows 7 days a week from 3:00 a.m. until sundown. They were not allowed to own livestock larger than a chicken and could not take home even one liter of milk from work to their families. In 1993, Land O'Lakes, with support from USAID, trained more than 8,000 women in sanitation, milk quality testing, preventing mastitis and other diseases, dairy breeding, and business management skills. The Woman's Metaj Dairy Cooperative began in 1998 with 15 members. Today 45 women from Metaj have 3 to 6 cows each and have created a cooperative where they profit from immense effort, proper sanitation methods, and advanced technology. The women realized that instead of selling their milk individually to local businessmen for low prices, they could share a cooling tank and sell their milk at double the price. In the photo, members of the Women's Metaj Dairy Cooperative show off some of their dairy cows.
Photo Credit: USAID
The village of La Danta is a group of houses inhabited by about 20 families who sustain themselves by growing small plots of corn and beans. Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) has provided families in the area with support to improve both agricultural production and family nutrition. At the end of 2002, a group of 10 women from the area recognized that due to bad road conditions, people selling bread rarely traveled to their community. They asked SHI's local extension worker to train them to make local materials into bread. SHI agreed to help them and contacted the National Institute for Professional Formation (NIPF). The NIPF provided the instruction, and SHI trained 10 local women to run their own small bread business. In this photo, women check on their bread in the oven.
Photo Credit: Laura Brown for Sustainable Harvest International
Founded on September 1, 1999, the Opportunity for Women in Renewable Energy Technology (RET) Utilization in Bangladesh focuses on the role of women in off-grid electrification service delivery in Bangladesh, providing access to electricity with direct current lamps, which are battery operated and typically used with solar homes. Since its establishment, the cooperative has been providing energy services to the un-electrified rural areas of Char Montaz and four neighboring islands. Today, the cooperative employs 33 women in the construction of DC lamps, which are being used for the lighting of small houses, shops, the mosque, and fishing boats. They offer additional services such as battery charging, the sale of electrical goods, and market electrification. The women produce 600 lamps per month and they are actively pursuing expansion into several un-electrified islands. In this photo, a Bangladeshi woman builds a DC lamp.
Photo Credit: Sameera Huque, Kolpon Multimedia
United States of America
The Rural Women's Product Development and Marketing Venture (RDLN) helps develop and promote a line of rural women's goods, especially crafts and items made from locally grown food. This project focuses on areas that are historically oppressed. For a number of women involved, economic difficulties have been compounded by health problems, disability, accidents and other catastrophes. The Rural Women's Product Development and Marketing Venture has four collaborating groups: Artes del Valle, in Colorado, the Freedom Quilting Bee in Alabama, Mujeres Unidas in New Mexico, and the Native Women's Cooperative in Oklahoma. They create and sell products such as woven purses, quilts, scented soaps, jewelry, and baskets. Through the cooperative, these women intend to gain income and self-reliance for their families and enhance the quality of life in their communities. The photo shows the co-directors of the Native Women's Cooperative Project in Oklahoma, Evelyn Conley and Julie Moss.