When I buy products for Bambootique, one of the things I look for is groups of women who have come together to form cooperatives. In a cooperative artisans band together in a way that benefits all of them to buy inputs in bulk, negotiate shipping rates for their products and to have bargaining power with buyers like me, among other things. This bargaining power of cooperatives is a central principle of fair trade and is missing from most economic transactions between the West and the developing world. It’s not just alive and well in my business, it’s also a thriving principle in my neighborhood.
Last week while playing and giggling on the floor with two little toddlers, one mine, it dawned on me that I am also part of a cooperative. The other toddler in that happy moment was my neighbor’s son, Braylon, who spends one day a week with us at our house while his mom works from home. Grace goes and spends another day every week at Braylon’s house while I get a few precious hours to work myself. The kids have a wild and crazy time and the moms get worn out but it’s all good fun.
By pooling our resources (time, patience, lunch, sanity, toys) my neighbor and I both come out much better off than if we each did everything on our own. Our little neighborhood co-op makes us each stronger and saner not to mention the savings on babysitting fees. This power we women hold together is definitely much greater than the sum of our individual strengths.