International Day of Cooperatives is an annual celebration of the “co-operative movement” which has been observed on the first Saturday in July since 1923 by the International Co-operative Alliance. A cooperative is defined as a “people-centred enterprise owned and run by and for their members to realise their common goal(s).”

In the context of Carers Worldwide, the common goal of our cooperatives is to create economic opportunities for carers.  Each Carers Cooperative is a regional-level group of carers who join forces to oversee financial savings programmes and allocate low-interest loans to members of village-level Carer Groups. The purpose of the loans is to enable carers to pursue income generating activities; however, cooperatives may also provide emergency loans for carers in circumstances such as accidents and deaths in the families, or for the purchase of necessary medicines.

The Carers Cooperatives generate their capital through the sale of shares to their members, all of whom are family carers. With the exception of emergency loans mentioned above, loans made to carers are repaid alongside low-levels of interest so the capital available in the cooperative funds steadily rises. Through our UK Aid funded project in Nepal and in collaboration with local NGO LEADS, two Carers Cooperatives have been established – one in Myagdi district and the other in Baglung district, covering a total of 1500+ identified carers. Since the initial share value of NPR 50,000, the Myadgi capital now stands at NPR 761,302 and the Baglung cooperative’s capital has reached NPR 623,109 NPR. Loan repayment rates have been incredibly successful, standing at 96%.

You may remember Yamuna from a previous article, who accessed a loan to kick-start her incense stick business in the Myadgi region. Yamuna’s story is an example of how the cooperative process works:

Yamuna wanted to make her own incense sticks to sell but did not have enough funds to purchase the raw materials needed  >  Yamuna approached her village-level carer group to apply for a loan to purchase raw materials  >  The local carer group submitted Yamuna’s application to the regional cooperative who reviewed the application to determine if Yamuna was eligible for the loan >  Yamuna’s loan application was approved and she was given the money to purchase the materials needed to make the incense sticks >  Yamuna’s incense stick business is active and she is now paying back the low-interest rate loan, as per the repayment schedule determined by the cooperative

Padam Shrestha, Director of LEADS tells us that the Carers Cooperatives in Nepal are committed to “uniting carers, raising their voices and staying results-oriented”. The establishment of the cooperatives has given carers the opportunity to economically empower carers and their inspirational work has attracted local government attention. The cooperatives are now working closely alongside local financial institutions and the government to promote new economic opportunities for carers. Beyond the UK Aid funded project, the cooperatives are now intent on growing their organizational capacity to further improve the lives of thousands of carers.

We are thrilled to hear about the impact being made by the cooperatives and we have every confidence that they will continue to be enablers of positive change for carers throughout their regions.