Women’s co-op in Jordan grows business by forming new partnerships

Being part of a co-op makes women members feel empowered

The International Labour Organisation marked International Women’s Day on 8 March by sharing the story of Jordanian women coming together to form a co-op.

Set up in the 1990s, the Fatima Al-Zahraa Cooperative Society brings together 15 women from the northern town of Ajloun, to cook and sell traditional dishes like kibbeh, ouzi, mansaf, and shashbark, as well as date-based products such as black coffee, cakes, and nut balls. It is one of the country’s 80 women’s co-ops.

Over the past couple of years, the ILO has been working with Jordan Cooperative Corporation (JCC) to run co-op training programmes and support amendments to the national legislation regulating the co-operative movement. Fatima Al-Zahraa Cooperative was among the co-ops to benefit from the collaboration.

“The training we attended with the ILO equipped us with essential skills in co-operative management and shed light on the intricacies of effective networking,” Ghada Al-Qudah, the co-op’s president, told the ILO. “I had long been eager to learn the art of business networking, and the opportunity finally presented itself during the training. Following the partnership announcement with the Jordanian Dates Association in the Jordan Valley, we swiftly inked an official agreement.”

Al-Qudah explained how the ILO training helped her co-op expand its horizons by forming a partnership with Jordanian Dates Association. Through this partnership and with support from the ILO, the co-op was able to procure dates, secure a suitable location for the business and complete the licensing process. 

“Working with dates was a new venture for us, and this initiative stemmed directly from the training we received. In my 30 years with the association, this was the first time I had the opportunity to participate in such a course,” she added.

Being part of a co-op gives the women members a sense of belonging to a community, adds Al-Qudah. She told the ILO that women also feel empowered “to step out of their homes, enabling them to become productive actors of society.”

The co-op has big plans for the future – it aims to extend the production and marketing of its products beyond the Ajloun Governorate. It also hopes to increase in the number of employees and plans to welcome new members from the Syrian refugee community in Jordan. It is estimated that around 660,000 Syrian refugees live in Jordan.

The project forms part of the Prospects programme, a global partnership supported by the government of the Netherlands and the Dutch-funded project Holland Horti Support Jordan.

As part of this programme, the ILO has also supported Jordan in developing a five-year national strategy for the co-operative movement in 2021. In 2022 the ILO also led a week-long Training of Trainers (ToT) in Jordan, which saw 24 participants from different institutions, including the Jordan Cooperatives Corporation, get introduced to its Occupational Safety and Health Training tool. The ILO’s Think.Coop  and Start.Coop tools have also been translated and adapted to the Jordanian context.

Jordan is home to 1,592 co-operatives with 142,322 members. The first co-ops were set up in 1952, when the country’s first co-operative law was adopted.