The World Needs Strong Women

15.10.2014

10-15-2014 International Day of Rural Women

Strong women are instrumental in combating poverty and hunger in rural regions in Africa. At the same time, they suffer the most from the precarious living conditions. This is where the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) and its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) Initiative comes in. CmiA provides women in the CmiA cotton growing regions with the opportunity of equal access to education and economic independence primarily through training and financial support. In total, currently around 85,000 women benefit from the program. The initiative, in collaboration with its partners, supports women’s cooperatives in northern Côte d’Ivoire in which over 2,800 women are members.

The world needs strong women. Strong women whose self-confidence is steadily growing thanks to the special support they receive, the solidarity, and mutual support in a group, are key to sustainable development in rural Africa. In the Côte d’Ivoire, women’s cooperatives have enjoyed a long history of tradition. The Aid by Trade Foundation and the DEG (German Investment and Development Company) together with the local cotton company Ivoire Coton support 38 women’s cooperatives with more than 2,800 members in northern Côte d’Ivoire with 100,000 euros.

By joining a cooperative, the women receive financial support to cultivate fields, grow vegetables, and sell their harvest together. This provides them with their own additional income which guarantees them a bit of independence and benefits the family directly. Whereas this joint income often has to be used for daily needs, the cooperative enables them to finance necessary expenses of individual members. These expenses include hospitalization in case of illness or birth as well as school supplies for the children. Koné Fomegokama, a 40-year-old mother of 5 children from Boundiali, is excited about this opportunity: “My husband left me nine years ago. I was all alone and did not know how I would be able to feed my children. I now grow vegetables, corn, and rice in the cooperative. The best thing about our cooperative is that we women always come together when one of us needs help. The cooperative has also helped me to earn money for my children’s education. Each of my five children now go to school. I could not have done it alone. But together you can achieve a great deal.”

“By supporting women in the CmiA growing regions, we make a significant contribution to helping CmiA smallholder farmers improve the living conditions of their families and entire communities,” said Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, “since the cooperative’s activities are not only designed to advance and promote women. Some groups invest their income to repair water pumps in the village or donate part of the harvest to school cafeterias.”

Officially, the International Day of Rural Women was adopted in 2007 by the UN General Assembly and celebrated for the first time on October 15, 2008. According to the United Nations, women in rural areas including indigenous women, play a crucial role in promoting agricultural and rural development, improving food security, and in helping combat rural poverty.