News

Empowering Women through Cooperatives

Date: 11 September 2009

UNIFEM staff visited two cooperatives in Gashora, Rwanda, on 11 September. In partnership with Centre IWACU, UNIFEM is working to empower women economically in rural communities. (Photo: UNIFEM/Nora Kokanova)
UNIFEM staff visited two cooperatives in Gashora, Rwanda, on 11 September. In partnership with Centre IWACU, UNIFEM is working to empower women economically in rural communities. (Photo: UNIFEM/Nora Kokanova)

Kigali — The district of Bugesera in southern Rwanda used to be the country’s breadbasket, producing beans, sorghum and cassava. But the region was hit severely by the genocide in 1994, leaving no functioning schools, hospitals, factories, government departments or utilities. Moreover, the region has endured prolonged drought in recent years, making it one of the poorest in the country.

With the objective of improving the socio-economic conditions of rural women and their families in Bugesera district, UNIFEM has partnered with the non-governmental organization Centre IWACU on efforts to empower women’s cooperatives in the small town of Gashora. By training cooperative members on micro-credit financing as well as on how to boost production and their access to local markets, UNIFEM and Centre IWACU aim to increase the capacity of the cooperatives to achieve a higher and more sustainable income.

Centre IWACU will work closely with women’s cooperatives, specifically identified as dynamic but with vulnerable members. For instance, 85 percent of the members of one cooperative in Gashora are living with HIV and AIDS. Through the cultivation of vegetables and production of soap and coloured fabrics, the cooperative enables these women to be active in community development, participate in decision-making and improve their living conditions.

The Government of Rwanda is promoting the establishment of cooperatives as a way for citizens to secure appropriate and affordable housing, utilities, infrastructure, health care and social services. In particular, vulnerable women are encouraged to create and join cooperatives to increase their income. As they become economically empowered within the household, they are also less likely to suffer domestic violence.

For more information, please contact Ms Nora Kokanova, Communication Officer, nora.kokanova[at]unifem.org.