Enhancing Women's Involvement in Cooperatives

The importance of women in dairying goes without saying. They form the integrated part of dairying. In most parts of the country it is women who care, feed and milk the animals. Ideally, their increased participation is essential for the long-term strength of the dairy cooperative movement. While initially the focus was on participation in dairying activity, as members, but now focus is on forming women DCS, active participation as management committee member and finally governance aspect of the Union as Board members.  

But the vision of women empowerment was visualised way back in 1995 by the Dairy Board which initiated “Women Dairy Cooperative Leadership Programme” (WDCLP) on a pilot basis in Valsad, Kolhapur, Wayanad and Goa in Western India. The success of this programme has led to its replication in other Unions throughout the country.  

Specific activities like focus on enhancing leadership skills of women, promoting thrift and credit groups as well as health, education and economic activities also have contributed largely to women empowerment.

Today, women are at the forefront of dairy development in the country instead of being relegated to the backend of dairying. There are more than 43.80 lakh women producers of which 3.29 lakh are Management Committee Members (2013), 354 board members (2013). To add to this, there are currently 26,700 women registered DCS out of 1.60 lakh village dairy cooperative societies. The annual growth rate of all women DCS is about 10%.

Women Dairy Cooperatives (WDCs)

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), Government of India, provides financing for cooperative milk producers' unions which implement the "Support to Training and Employment Programme" (STEP). Under this programme, dairy cooperatives are formed with membership as well as the management entirely composed of women milk producers.

NDDB recognises the importance of STEP as a way to encourage increased women's participation in their dairy cooperatives. Whether eligible for STEP funding, or otherwise, Milk Unions are encouraged to organise all Women Dairy Cooperatives.

Women Thrift Groups (WTGs)

Taken up initially as a pilot activity by the NDDB, in some Milk Unions, organisation of thrift groups still continues to be an important component of the Women Dairy Cooperative Leadership Programme. Thrift groups mobilise member savings, making them available either directly, or as loans, both for maintaining milch animals during the lean season as well as for the purchase of livestock. Importantly, it provides a system for women to place their earnings from sale of milk to their cooperative, and enhance their activity level, while providing opportunity for social interaction.  

An additional benefit of thrift groups is the experience women gain in managing their own institutions, which prepares them to assume higher responsibilities in managing their DCS and the Union. 

  • The achievements till date through the continuing earnest and conscientious efforts of NDDB and the dairy cooperatives towards women empowerment and upliftment of their socio-economic and cultural wellbeing are summarised below: Rural women now work alongside men, adding to the family income.
  • Also 2 Milk Unions namely Ichhamati Cooperative Milk Union, in West Bengal and Mulukanoor Women’s Mutually Aided Milk Producers Cooperative Union, in Andhra Pradesh have evolved as all women cooperative dairies completely managing and governing the dairy enterprise. 

Women's Dairy Cooperative Leadership Programme (WDCLP)

The Women's Dairy Cooperative Leadership Programme (WDCLP) was launched in 1995 as a pilot programme with the objective of strengthening the dairy cooperative movement by significantly increasing women's participation as active members and as leaders in the governance of cooperative societies, unions and federations. NDDB provided assistance to Milk Unions in conducting several activities to achieve WDCLP objectives. Some of the Milk Unions are taking this concept forward.

As part of the WDCLP programme Milk Unions identified women staff to participate in training designed to develop their latent potential. At the village level, the key strategy was to train and position a local woman as a resource person to encourage and support women's involvement in their dairy cooperative.

Focus on Women under NDP-I:

NDP-I focuses on greater participation of members as producer members as well as governance of village level institutions. In all the approved projects a minimum of 30% of women producer members is targeted.

The project also has provision for Lady Extension officer for each EIA to ensure the participation of women and to convey the message of institution values, CMP especially among women as they are the primary stakeholders in dairying.

Women institutions are also supported under NDP-I through various capacity building programs which helps them in running the milk procurement institutions themselves.