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Stories From The Field

Linking Participation with Economic Advancement: PEKKA Case Study

Grass-roots member-owned cooperatives for female heads of households in rural Indonesia (PEKKA) empower the women members through three economic activities: community-based microfinance through savings and borrowing; a closed trading and marketing system, branded as PEKKA Mart; and economic lobbying and advocacy. Fieldwork for the PEKKA cooperative Lodan Do’e on the impacts of these economic activities shows that through their membership of the cooperative, female heads of households were able to increase voice and agency over economic decision-making. They increased their access and control over resources, mainly through the saving and borrowing activities, as members could use loans from the cooperative to access land and improve control over their microbusinesses (e.g. pricing, investment). PEKKA Mart gave members some control over the local trading systems through closed value chains and collective purchasing. Self-organisation also shaped women’s autonomous grass-roots voice at village and district levels. However, control over society influences remains complicated due to tradition, culture and stigmas in society that still work against women. Although on average 20–25 per cent of the loans are used for micro or small family businesses, PEKKA members also see investment in education for children or the purchase or improvement of a house as an advancement in their economic situation. Higher incomes through improved businesses is not the main purpose, but having more control over their economic future and creating better economic opportunities means more to the women. The fieldwork also shows that women’s participation in economic advancement is still very much related to traditional gender roles. Women only gain economic advancement in traditional gender roles such as cooking, sewing and weaving. The access and control over capacity building through the link with the PEKKA Foundation and the exchange of information within the nationwide network of cooperatives is an important enabling factor to increase awareness and capabilities. Hence, self-organisation has proven to be an empowering means for rural women-headed households. However, this case study shows that self-organisation in a cooperative has limitations if it does not link within the wider local economy to extend the cooperative network outside the strict cooperative structure. As such, PEKKA seeks to cooperate with economic actors and governmental actors, which has its challenges


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