What is WIDCO? The Women Initiative Development Cooperative Organization (WIDCO), established in the 1990s, is a ground-breaking organization created for Women’s Initiative Development. Based in Cameroon, Africa – where women struggle to achieve basic human rights and decision-making power taken for granted in Western societies – WIDCO, provides support for non-governmental, international organizations who wish to work toward empowering African women.
Women’s exclusion in Africa from decision-making and lack of control of financial assets – key components that facilitate empowerment – is attributed mainly to the predominance of a historically-established patriarchal society. This patriarchal dominance perpetuates a socioeconomic dependency on men, reinforced by discriminatory laws and policy and traditional culture. Low literacy, low self esteem, and minimal skills are the unfortunate results of women’s exclusion from direct and constructive participation in public and economic life and negatively affect African women’s ability to contribute effectively to their society as a whole, or to improve their own and their family’s well-being.
Cameroon’s women constitute the majority of those living below the poverty line. Research shows that individual households – where economic well-being really begins – would be more secure if women had equitable power to control and budget household welfare and finances. Women are generally more concerned about community and more altruistic; they budget resources for necessities, rather than for personal gain. If allowed equal participation in the factors of production and development, women can improve the overall economic welfare of the culture. Research demonstrates that income-generation is directly related to the empowerment of women; raising living standards of rural women of Africa will raise living standards of all of Africa and contribute to economic well-being and growth worldwide, from both a practical and moral perspective.
The intense poverty that permeates much of Africa is a huge debilitating factor at both the personal and political levels. Economic growth will alleviate the multitude of problems associated with poverty. To promote economic growth, WIDCO seeks to develop practical strategies to promote women’s equality and empowerment. Cameroon’s women’s full potential has yet to be harnessed and incorporated.
Mission WIDCO’s (Women Initiative Development Cooperative Organization) primary mission is to build and support grassroots organizations in Cameroon that Empower Women through Micro-Finance Schemes, Education & Training, Addressing Cultural practices & Women's Rights, Leadership & Management Development, Community Development, and Politics & Human Rights.
The WIDCO Concept The working concept on which WIDCO is based is unique. It is based on empowering women by offering opportunities for leadership positions to women. WIDCO operates on the micro and macro levels of social awareness and activity and is geared towards creating women’s equality through empowerment. WIDCO seeks to develop women’s potentials through education, participation in family/community decisions and every-day activities, and through building upon, and expanding on, existing economic resources: The keys are education and capacity-building. WIDCO also seeks to educate and communicate to others about women’s importance in economic development in establishing long-term, constructive, economic infrastructure. WIDCO believes that intellectual and economic empowerment is the key for betterment for any culture. WIDCO is a model for women’s empowerment the world over, wherever women’s participation in economic and social life has been inhibited.
Besides elevating the living standards of the rural women, WIDCO is principally aimed at empowering women with a new orientation by developing their potentials to enable them to become more participative in activities of family life, the immediate neighbourhood, national interests and in everyday life of the civil society.
Philanthropic and educational services to the members of the target community.
Encouraging economic promotion and income-generation for the whole community.
Facilitating research and disseminating key concepts of national and international economic and social welfare regarding all women, information which can lead to productive policy and social change.
The WIDCO concept has two distinct aspects: (1) philanthropic services to the target community and (2) economic development and business promotion.
The philanthropic activities of the WIDCO structure are undertaken directly under the WIDCO umbrella, while economic and business promotion and income generation activities are done following the principle of the Cameroon Co-operative Movement as guided by the cooperative law in force. The economic empowerment structures of WIDCO are used to execute the concept of social, cultural and political empowerment of the women through leadership seminars and workshops and interventions.
Women’s involvement, and thus empowerment – whether social, cultural, economical, or political – must necessarily be perceived, and understood, as significant as that of men’s, if the national economy is to thrive and survive. Their contributions must be seen as inseparable from the lives of men. Empowering women is not just about “empowering women” but is a practical and universally-constructive action, essential to beneficial results for men, women, families, and the entire community.
WIDCO seeks to help women so that Africa can begin to save itself from poverty and eventually be a viable participant in the global economy and society.
What Does WIDCO do? Sensitizes and creates awareness in the community. Organizes economic, social and cultural groups with female leadership with the aim of improving the leadership skills of women. Collaborates and undertakes activities with related associations and organizations created to promote better health and social welfare of the targeted community. Collaborates and undertakes activities with related associations and organizations created to promote gender balance and equality within the targeted community. Works with cooperative movements and existing legislation in Cameroon under a shared initiative to fight against poverty and for gender equality. Undertakes all legally acceptable activities geared toward more active participation of women in civil society.
How Does WIDCO Help? While the targeted community concerns women of Africa, the philosophy and objectives of WIDCO can benefit all people, all genders, on an international scale. If successful, gender balance will assist in balancing economic issues locally and internationally. WIDCO helps organizations build leadership and intellectual awareness and incorporates such actions as:
General Community Education (GCE) programs Advocacy and Lobbying Counseling and Human Rights Interventions Community Development Poverty Assistance Sustainable Life and Welfare Enterprises
How Does WIDCO Operate? Recognizing that poor education and poverty are the major problems common to all African communities, WIDCO operates on philosophical, organizational, and economic/pragmatic bases to assist. WIDCO operates through a team of coordinators directed by the founder of the organization. The team works in the field in targeted communities and with the assistance of the traditional rulers and notable persons. It assembles both men and women for discussions to encourage action toward empowering the community’s female population. The purpose is not to create separate women’s groups, or to isolate women’s issues, but to include all the community in a joint effort, demonstrating and believing that involving women benefits the entire culture.
The coordinating team orients the discussions to focus on: Practices in the community that involve women. The role and place of women in the home and community. Problems of the community and society as a whole. At the end of these discussions, participants are able to: Identify major problems confronting the community and society. Realize that problems are best addressed in diversely-populated groups. Develop interested in becoming members of groups assigned to address specific problems and tasks to resolve them. Realize the critical significance of micro-saving activities and strategies as a foundation for establishing micro-project loans and investment schemes. Participants are encouraged to establish a WIDCO-motivated group (WIDCIG) for their community. When at least 40 persons have decided to join this branch organization, a board of seven directing officials is elected, consisting of four women and three men. Following the foundational philosophy of assisting in women’s empowerment women, the positions of president and treasurer are reserved only for women. After the formation of a WIDCIG and a training period for its members, WIDCO’s activities are primarily of informational and economic assistance. WIDCO provides: Budgeting for a cooperative organization. Bookkeeping and accounting. Cooperative management adhering to basic cooperative principles. Preparation of annual business plans and annual reports. Functions of the board of directors and supervisory committees Application of the Cameroon’s cooperative laws. Collection and marketing of the produce of WIDCIGs (affiliates) through the structures of the pyramid. Purchasing supplies for members.
WIDCO promotes the activities of WIDCIG much like a charity-pyramid. It provides training services and facilities through outreach programs to best build the capacity of WIDCIGs to be effective and contribute productively to WIDCO’s objectives to eliminate problems of poverty and women’s isolation from effective community development. (This is what is intended to be management capacity building activities)
On-Going Projects: General Community Education Project (GCE): Geared toward sensitizing the rural community to develop joint ventures in economic activities to create an atmosphere of shared information and consciousness about the community’s needs. Objectives include mobilizing assistance from publishing companies to help supply books and further resources. Micro-Financing Investment Scheme: Various WIDCO affiliates are being mobilized to raise capital and have opened accounts in credit unions to assist economic development. Management Information System (MIS) and Multimedia Information Centers: With assistance from the Canadian Executive Service (CESO) put up a management Information system (MIS) for needs other resource persons to execute,
WIDCO is beginning to establish an internet service with office accommodations and computer systems for various communities. Agro-Input Marketing: Thus far, more than 100 tons of fertilizer has been supplied to WIDCO members. Forest and Environment: WIDCO is involved in the promotion of bio-fuel projects BY encouraging its members to plant stems of the Jatropha, a plant used in extracting combustible oil for lamps and locomotives. Health: WIDCO is collecting information to fight against HIV/AIDS by promoting curative as well as preventative actions. It is working towards mobilizing assistance in acquiring free medication to infected persons. Community Development and Rural Infrastructure: Since 2002, WIDCO has been engaged in encouraging the building of necessary roads from rural farmlands to community centers. Commerce and Business Promotion: Promotion of joint venture economic activities between the members and affiliates of WIDCO.
Future Projects: Micro-Financing Operation Scheme WIDCO Community Volunteer Scheme: The objective is to provide much-needed human resources to execute and help develop WIDCO’s programs and incentives. Mass Commuter Literacy Program: As the world grows into a global village, the objective here is to assist citizens in utilizing the internet and global communication technologies so they can more effectively contribute to their communities. Food Collection and Evacuation Transport Program Community Potable Water Project: To collect water from wells through manual and wind-operated pumps. Management Capacity Development Modern Farming and Honey Production Mushroom Production
Completed Projects and Achievements: Cooperative Warehouses: Successful operations leading to the construction of a cooperative warehouse for JAWIDCOS through support by the French Corporation for Assistance and Mutuality.
WIDCO structures have been successfully organized and legalized in the Jakiri, Kumbo, Mbiame, and Nkum Sub Divisions in Bui division, Bamenda 1, Bamenda 11 and Bamenda 111 subdivisions of Mezam division of the North West Region of Cameroon. A water scheme is being implemented in the Yang-Kitari village through WIDCO and amazingly supported by this village’s traditional council.
Overview of WIDCOs Projects: WIDCO’s objectives are directed by two main aspects of intervention: 1) philanthropic services to target specific communities and 2) economic development and business promotion. WIDCO’s projects are being developed community by community in Cameroon (targeted communities) with the hope to eventually implement WIDCO’s visions and projects at the national level, with broad scale cooperation.
1.) Philanthropic Goals To create awareness in the community through organization of social and cultural groups under feminine leadership and to improve the leadership skills of women. Collaborate with other associations to promote better health and social welfare. Promote cooperative systems, legitimized through related legislation, with common initiatives to fight against poverty and foster gender equality. Implement legally acceptable activities geared toward encouraging and supporting more participation of women in civil society.
2.) Economic Goals WIDCO has been pursuing its economic objectives – eliminating poverty through establishing markets and better inter- and intra-community development of its resources and sustainable sources of energy – by building its commercial infrastructure from the “ground-up,” based on the sociopolitical structure already in place and on a “pyramid” model. WIDCO has precisely detailed and organized its programs and operations according to this social structure, as a five-step phase of development based on the pyramid model: the village, sub-division, division, the region, and, finally, the national level..
General goals include: Preparing budgets, bookkeeping, and annual reports for a cooperative society. Technical Assistance concerning management and organizing. Collecting products, promoting production of more produce, and developing markets Acquiring assistance, information, and financial aid from other organizations. Organize seminars to enhance use of modern farming and dissemination of goods. Developing sources for micro-financing and the WIDCO Financial Investment Credit Cooperative Society LTD. Application of cooperative laws in Cameroon.
WIDCO Philosophy WIDCO believes that the empowerment of women IS the empowerment of men: Women’s empowerment should not be isolated into women’s groups. Their involvement in society should be incorporated alongside those of men, which will best contribute to the overall and lasting enrichment of our society. The Women’s Initiative Development is a concept that has evolved into the creation of the Women’s Initiative Development Cooperative Organization (WIDCO), an organization – and philosophy – built on a “new concept on women empowerment.” WIDCO is based on developing and promoting a civil society organization in which both men and women work together. WIDCO originated primarily in rural villages of Cameroon, where traditional beliefs and societal structures have typically relegated women to a position of servitude toward men and thus have historically inhibited women’s ability to fully develop their potential and contribute to society in a broader way. It is crucial that women are brought into the development of WIDCO as they have been representative of the most disadvantaged segment of rural society. They can comprehend the ramifications of poverty and know how to manage family life in impoverished situations. They not only experience poverty, they also live with discrimination, a discrimination that results in limited access to income, property ownership, and education. WIDCO therefore has instituted an unusual organizational element: Within WIDCO’s organizational structure, while men and women are to work side-by-side, the highest posts (President and Treasurer) are reserved for women, and women are encouraged to pursue leadership and entrepreneurial roles. This is the only way to begin to achieve gender balance and to rectify embedded inequality and unequal participation in community interests and development. As bedrocks of the family unit, women have much to contribute to WIDCO’s ultimate objectives and reason for being: alleviating the devastating and deep effects of poverty and improving the conditions of life for its rural populations. Education and capacity-building are the most important instruments of building WIDCO and a better society.
An important aspect in providing a credible base for WIDCO’s projects and ambitions is to benefit from funding assistance and to create micro-financing sources. WIDCO strives, therefore to seek fair and legal funding allocated for legitimate, targeted projects and demonstrating intended impact and results. There must always be an accessible communication link between donor and beneficiary, and all transactions must be transparent and follow-through on moral obligations.
WIDCO is not a women’s group or network. It aims to promote the unique abilities of women in groups where both men and women work together as a unit. WIDCO also believes that community development cannot disregard the cultural foundations and traditional values of the rural community but must build upon this base and respect its validity; otherwise the community will not be sustainable over the long term. The traditional potential of the community must be the bedrock for any social, economic, or political evolution. In the WIDCO concept, every aspect of human life is significant: human rights, legislation, litigation, media, cultural traditions and customs, rural community development, building of roads and necessary infrastructures, education for women and children, diminishing crime, government and politics, business and its promotion, health, child welfare, clean and environment and new sources of renewable energy, etc. are all concerns of WIDCO and its endeavors.
VISION OF WIDCO The vision of WIDCO spans through a short and long term period.
WIDCO wishes to see: all traditional rulers of the grassfield region of Cameroon embrace women as inseparable partners in both cultural and socio-economic development of their tribes and villages. The population of Cameroon awakened to become conscious and concern about the happenings around them which affect or influence their lives and welfare such as the management of public funs and resources and actions of administrators and public figures and to be able to question these actions for accountability and necessary corrections as the needs arises. WIDCO believes that a dull and or docile society breeds dull leaders and that dull leaders rule by detection. The African community suffers from the effect of bad governance more because most Africans are not concerned or are ignorance of how they could be concern with the issues that affect their lives and welfare.
Rather than indulging in public manifestations that are characterized by drinking and drunkenness at times the entire Cameroon nation both men and women should be involved in discussions on how to better empower women in a united society Arrive a point in 2020 where the entire Cameroon nation should be involved in discussing women empowerment in the new rather than in the old concept of organizing women groups. Have a society in which womanhood should be regarded simply as a biological state of existence relative to man’s rather than an identification for weakness and the platform from which support and protection should be expected.
WIDCO envisages a situation in Cameroon during which women will be discussing civil society issues of political, economic, cultural and social impact on the table of competence rather than from the position of quota posts allocation that is wish now.
WIDCO wishes to become a model in Cameroon on issues of women empowerment and NGO management.
In the long term,
WIDCO wishes to let the new concept on women empowerment become an issue for international discussion at the level of other international organizations like African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) and NGOs etc
WIDCO wishes through its discussion forum to generate discussions aimed at provoking of the current concept on women empowerment and to also provoke a policy reorientation for those organizations that are involved in activities related to women empowerment.
What is WIDCO? The Women Initiative Development Cooperative Organization (WIDCO), established in the 1990s, is a ground-breaking organization created for Women’s Initiative Development. Based in Cameroon, Africa – where women struggle to…