This Women's Cooperative initiative is currently in the "facilitated Participatory Planning meetings" stage.
Participatory Planning involves the people in exercises that many have never before experienced — thinking through and mapping their daily routines, analyzing how their resources are used, discussion of causes and effects as applied to everyday situations in their own lives (and in their community's interactions with the local and regional authorities), and other similar activities. Some of the objectives of these meetings are:
• to create an environment where everyone is encouraged to participate and contribute to the discussion, and
• to facilitate:
1. a process (during many meetings) of identification and analysis of the problems at hand
2. discussions of possible solutions that could be achieved via a variety of proposed projects
3. coming to consensus as to which projects would best alleviate their most pressing problems
(both for now and into the future)
4. prioritizing the community's needs in order to decide which projects need to be done and in which order
This process takes an enormous amount of time, but it is time well spent because when the moment arrives to implement the project, not only is everyone already in agreement and "on the same team", so to speak, but it is THEIR project, not HAF's or the Government's. They have decided to do their project, they know all of the ramifications of not doing it and the benefits from doing it, and they know how and why they will benefit from the project.
Why is this so important?
Empowerment begins with the individual.
Discovering that one is capable of making informed decisions is a huge step toward feeling empowered, finding one's voice, and having the courage to participate. Just as illiterate people often don't even try to understand many things because they are so sure that they cannot, someone who has never been asked to voice an opinion will often think that they should not have one or are not entitled to one. So, the poor and the illiterate often remain poor and illiterate. We find that participatory planning meetings, when properly facilitated, are the first step toward changing this dynamic.
A women's worker-owned cooperative is expected to increase each member’s income by at least 200 percent after 6 years. Creating new rural income sources and educational, health, and environmental opportunities is an important first step in addressing the complex needs of rural Moroccan women and girls. Addressing the root causes of poverty through multiple activities — including economic, social, and environmental — that meet local people’s self-described needs has the potential to transform village communities by generating increased income, strengthening democratic processes and mobilizing the co-op members into an effective team to achieve communal goals of better health, nutrition, education, income, and community infrastructure.
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