Scotmid helps young women in India 3

Co-operative retail groups from around the UK have raised over £100,000 to helped more than forty young women in India develop new skills and secure a regular income.

Launched when the Delta variant was hitting India last year, the support was first created to provide essential basic supplies, health kits and education.

The emergency response was co-ordinated by Co-operatives UK and the Co-operative College, who worked together as part of the International Working Group to collect and co-ordinate the donations from The Co-op Group, Midcounties Co-op, Central England Co-op, Scotmid, Lincolnshire Co-op, Southern Co-op, East of England Co-op, Channel Islands Co-op, Chelmsford Star Co-op, Heart of England Co-op and Co-op News.

During the initial crisis period, £70,000 of the donation from the UK co-ops was used to provide emergency support. This included the distribution of 4,000 household health kits, with masks, soap and immune boosters distributed across eight states of India. Lifesaving information about the symptoms and spread of Covid was also provided to families in rural and low-income urban areas – to dispel myths and provide accurate health information.

The remaining £30,000 is now being used to deliver a two-year programme supporting the development of two young women’s incubator co-operatives. A grassroots media co-operative will support young women to build capacity in media, journalism, graphic design, photography and new media, whilst a second grassroots co-operative will focus on research, conducting surveys, focus group discussion and report writing.

The support has evolved to helping young female workers to grow a sustainable future out of the pandemic through a two-year incubator programme to help them develop skills in journalism, graphic design, photography, new media, research methodology and report writing.

Pranaliben, a 20-year-old woman from Ahmedabad City, is one of the women who will benefit from this support. After completing her graduate studies from a local university, Pranaliben struggled to find sustained employment which was made worse by the pandemic. Through her mother, a member of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), she got in touch with SEWA Cooperative Federation and learnt about cooperatives. Now she is eager to work together with young women like herself and lead her own cooperative.

Co-operatives UK worked with the Co-operative College and Co-op News to co-ordinate the appeal, partnering with SEWA in India who are delivering the programme.

Chairperson SEWA Cooperative Federation Mirai Chatterjee said: “Women in India mainly work informally meaning their earnings can be unreliable and as soon as the crisis hit many lost their income overnight. Thanks to the vital support provided by our co-operative friends in the UK, we’re helping them to form two grassroots co-operatives to create a sustainable livelihood for themselves.

“As well as learning technical skills in communications and research, around forty young women will develop leadership and business management skills, and we’re developing market links to help them secure regular work and provide income security.”

Scotmid president Harry Cairney said: “This worthwhile partnership demonstrates the strength of co-operation. We’re proud to be a part of this initiative to grant young women in India, like Pranaliben, the necessary skills and opportunities needed to secure a regular income.”