In Rojava, the economic activities of women are being organised in the form of communes and cooperatives. For about two years, women have been meeting in small cooperatives. This gets them out of their homes and secures them financial earnings, while at the same time providing products to the population at an adequate price.
One of these women’s cooperatives is the cooperative for milk and dairy products in Dêrik [Derik / Al-Malikiyah] which is being run with the help of the women’s organisation Kongreya Star. Ten women have come together and built this cooperative. Collaborating as a group, they not only produce what they need themselves, they also earn their livelihoods by distributing their surplus production to other families. They dedicate four hours every day to their work, producing 200kg of cheese, yogurt, sweets, and other treats. The fact that the works adds variety to these women’s daily routines and also allows them to gain confidence are factors that must not be underestimated.
The support of Kongreya Star
Narınç Sadık tells us how the cooperative was founded : “It was one and a half years ago. We were ten women, each of us had paid her financial contribution. Kongreya Star advanced us the money that was missing. Once production was running, we gave Kongreya Star its share of our cooperative.
The Economy Committee of Kongreya Star invited us to a meeting and discussed with us how the women’s economy is structured, why it is necessary, and how we must go about it. They said that in order to create a women’s economy, we need to learn how to organise in communes and cooperatives. At the very beginning, many of those at the meeting did not feel up to the task. “Our children are still small”, they said. So we started with ten women who did feel ready, and that’s how we set up our cooperative”.
A contribution to society
Narınç Sadık stresses that the cooperative is making a contribution to society with its activities: “On the market, one bucket of yogurt costs 500 SYP; our yogurt costs 250 SYP a bucket. We contribute to the healthy nutrition of our people. Before we started doing this we lived in economically precarious circumstances. Although yogurt and milk are considered staple foods, we could not afford them. But now we manage to feed our children very well, while working three to four hours each day, and also earning money into the bargain.
We’re glad that we can contribute to society this way. If we had problems feeding our families healthy food, many other women must be in the same situation. As women, we should not only take care of our own children. It’s great that we have managed to provide this service to others.”
We began despite a lot of objections
“When we started this, our spouses and relatives were against it“, Narınç Sadık says. “But as much as they were against it, we were just as determined to go through with the project. We built a women’s commune. Then it became clear that we were capable of a lot of things if we stick together. My husband disapproved: “You will not be able to do this and take care of the kids at the same time.” But yes, we manage. I raise my children and I work, both at the same time. I do things at my rhythm and I don’t pay further attention to my husband. I know my own needs and act accordingly. In the meantime, my husband has also changed. When we need a hand, he helps us, too.”
My confidence has soared
Şerife Abdal reports that she alone assures the livelihood of her family: “My husband cannot work because of a physical condition; our family really had it bad. But then I started with this cooperative and now we don’t need the help of others anymore. I raise my children with the money I earn myself.
When we started, we were inexperienced, and the work was very tiring. Now, we do things at our own pace. Even if the work is demanding, we get through it together. We like each other, and working together is agreeable. When we haven’t seen our colleagues for a few days, we miss each other.
Before, our entire lives were spent at home. Now that has changed. We still carry out the duties we have in front of our children and our relatives, but our world has grown. Through this cooperative we met a lot of new people. Our relationships with our neighbours have become better this way. I personally now have a lot more confidence. I raise my kids, I earn my own livelihood, and at the same time I participate in the activities of the women’s commune. In this way, I feel both more useful and more contented than before.”
Our friends’ interest in work grows
Hatice Muhammed, another member of the cooperative, says that she is happy to do this work and that she has noticed that their activities inspire other women. “We like our work and we like each other. This week, three or four women asked whether they could also work in our cooperative. Anyone who becomes part of the cooperative is no longer dependent on their husband’s wallet.
Everyone is happy about our work. Even though the work is hard, it makes us happy that we can provide society with products that meet their needs. We can distribute however much milk, yogurt and other products they need. We have enough for our children as well as our neighbours’ children, and people are grateful for that. That is our greatest happiness.”