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WOMEN PARTICIPATION IN COOPERATIVES – CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS. THE CASE OF SELECTED SACCOS AND AMCOS IN KILIMANJARO AND ARUSHA REGIONS TANZANIA, EAST AFRICA
Abstract. A Cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise. In Tanzania, cooperatives are associated with the introduction of cash crops especially coffee, cotton and tobacco. The cooperative organizations first started in 1925 in Kilimanjaro area where the indigeneous people organized themselves to form the Kilimanjaro native Planters Association (KNPA) to solve their coffee production and marketing problems.
Cooperatives have a key role to play as they are able to respond to both women’s practical and strategic needs by providing access to income generating activities as worker owners. Women contribution in national development has been a feature which is hardly given the recognition it deserves. We have observed that in most cases their role has been relegated to the subservient tasks of domestic chores. Such occurrences take place notwithstanding the very important role women have played in food production, income generation and the management of resources.
From experience in many countries of Africa and Tanzania is no exception, the issue of women’s participation in development activities can no longer be considered merely as a matter of welfare. There is recognition among development experts that women are central participants in the socio-economic development process. There is therefore a growing consensus that women’s greater involvement in all aspects of development programmes is extremely important for the rational utilization of development resources which has hitherto remained under estimated and neglected. A lot therefore remains to be done in order to involve women effectively into co-operative development. However the opportunities for improving women’s position and the potential for co-operatives to contribute to such a process do exist. (Solomon, 1998 Chambers, 1993).
The present situation of co-operatives is marked by a number of serious problems which threaten the existence and the economic survival of co-operatives. Although co-operatives, like other private organizations are gaining independence from state interference as a result of Liberalization and privatization, they need to improve their economic performance for the benefit of their members and for their own survival.
Keywords: Women Participation; Cooperatives; Kilimanjaro and Arusha Regions.