Economic empowerment of women is one popular approach to closing the gender inequality gap. Yet co-operative enterprises, which have been successful in improving the livelihoods of disadvantaged and rural women in developing countries, remain widely unknown and under-utilized.
So often in the world of international development evaluation, the voices of the people the project is targeting -- the people who are really the most important in terms of determining the impact of the project -- are absent.
A young American named Pippa Biddle wrote a piece criticizing "voluntourism" that went viral. Though I agree with much of what she says, I think Biddle is missing one essential point. The mature and thoughtful attitude she has developed on this topic is a direct result of the experiences she has had through her volunteer work overseas. Without her fumbling efforts overseas, she would never have gained the wisdom to support development in the south in a way that does not reinforce the systemic imbalance of power and privilege that is so much a part of our well-intentioned efforts to help.
Tezana Kassa was once afraid of bees. Strange, I thought, for someone whose livelihood is now so wrapped up in a co-operative honey bee apiary he and 25 other youth began just weeks ago here in the parched Amhara region of northern Ethiopia.
I am convinced that co-operatives offer a fair, equitable and ethical tool for generating employment and income -- both here in Canada and in communities throughout the developing world. That is probably not a very surprising statement, coming from someone who has worked for co-operatives for most of my adult life.
Three years into my career I traveled to Uganda as a volunteer with the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) to discover how agricultural and financial co-operatives are drastically improving the lives of hard working farmers. That mission, "Telling Our Story Uganda" affected me in a profound and personal way.