Empowering Women’s Cooperatives

Posted by on Jun 21, 2012 | 2 comments

On June 13th, 2012, four women’s cooperatives finished their 3-month workshop as part of Costa Rica’s National Women’s Institute’s (Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres in Spanish) initiative to understand the needs of women’s coops in rural communities.

The National Women’s Institute partnered with two other national organizations that are in charge of supporting cooperatives all over the country known as INFOCOOP and CONACOOP to hire a human development agency to help these women understand and develop the skills and knowledge they need to function like a business.

Additionally, the Institute will be closing a bilateral agreement with the European Union this year to fund a four-year program called EMPRENDE which aims to strenghten the entrepreneurial skills of businesswomen from rural and marginalized communities to increase their economic potential.  EMPRENDE is a government initiative that aspires to give women more economic independence and it’s directed towards women or women’s groups that have at least 1 year of business operation. The project aims to benefit 600 women over the course of the four years.  Based on Noti Mag, 300 women have already been identified to start the project in 2013.

Pilot Program EMPRENDE for business women in rural Costa Rica

The four coops that were selected were all from the Guanacaste region, which is the second province with the highest poverty rate and has highest gender inequality rate in Costa Rica.

Listening to facilitator Mauricio  Quirós from EQUILIBRHA Consultants

I had the tremendous opportunity to be part of this workshop as my women’s group was invited to participate. I met wonderful people and had the chance to accompany my women’s group in this process of personal growth.

Each coop did a SWOT analysis and based on the results of that analysis created an action plan they each had to present in public the last day of the workshop. The women also had a chance to share best practices, learn from each other’s mistakes, create bonds, and motivate themselves to createa  business-minded attitude.

COOPEGUAYTIL –  comercializes beautiful pottery – presenting their workplan

Manager of COOMUREC – a reclying business – presenting her coop’s workplan

One of the weaknesses we discovered was that most women’s coops do not operate like a business but rather like a space where they can socialize and be away from family responsibilities.  Since the main purpose of cooperativas autogestionarias or self-managed coops is to increase self-employability and financial growth as a partnership, this is something that needs to be fixed.

Famous for their traditional cuisine, COOPETORTILLA serves the typical cornrice dish during break.

The workshop touched important topics like self-esteem, self-image, business planning, entrepreneurship, and other key elements that affect the success of a business.  It was indeed a great experience for all the women involved and opened up an array of opportunities and new beliefs for them as businesswomen.


  1. Good to hear about these entrepreneurship events for women cooperatives. I did similar work as a PCV in Morocco (’08-’10). I’m also a former HACU intern. Great to see fellow Latinos venturing out into the international arena and making a difference. Best of luck with the rest of your service.

    • Hi Jon. I am glad you liked the post and I am sure you did amazing work in Morocco. I heard it’s a beautiful place! Thanks for the best wishes and I too wish you the best at HACU! We may meet soon!

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