An all-female Turkish cooperative start-up sells products across the country

In Şanlıurfa province in southeastern Turkey, which produces the most dried isot peppers (special dried red peppers from Urfa), tomatoes and eggplants in the country, women gather under the roof of ‘a cooperative with the support of the Ministry of Commerce and market the products they produce across the country and abroad.

Fifteen female entrepreneurs from Şanlıurfa have formed an all-female cooperative. They benefited from a project grant from the Ministry of Commerce for women entrepreneurs and came together under the roof of the cooperative they created last year. Cevahir Asuman Yazmacı, a businesswoman representing women entrepreneurs, said that by establishing “Urfa AGRO cooperative” in the city, they are able to offer registered regional dishes such as organic bread, dumplings stuffed meat (içli köfte), semsek (a kind of Turkish samosa), ağzı açık (an open minced meat pastry) and ağzı yumuk (a closed minced meat pastry), which can be frozen and sold nationwide. Turkey.

Some of the finished products from the all-female cooperative, Şanlıurfa, in southeastern Turkey, January 16, 2022. (IHA Photo)

Contribute to the national economy

Yazıcı, in his statement on the cooperative, said, “We established the cooperative on February 21, 2021, with the support of the Ministry of Commerce. We started the activity by renting a kitchen from the technopole which had been inactive for 14 years. With the support we received from the Ministry of Commerce, we bought some of the kitchen equipment. Our main objective here, as Urfa AGRO women’s initiative and production cooperative, was actually to socialize women and contribute to the national economy in general, and the economy of Şanlıurfa in particular. I believe we have succeeded.”

Yazıcı explained that today they produce more geographically indicated products from Şanlıurfa, including isot peppers, chili paste, tomato paste and dried fruits.

“And we help market them,” she said.

Members of the all-female cooperative produce pepper paste, Şanlıurfa, southeastern Turkey, January 16, 2022. (IHA Photo)

The all-female cooperative supported by the Ministry of Commerce works in its kitchen in the city's technology park, Şanlıurfa, in southeastern Turkey, January 16, 2022. (IHA Photo)

Ultimately, all women will have a stake in the cooperative, she explained. “For now, of course, in order for the cooperative to be self-sufficient, it provides a salary to my colleagues while producing the products here, but I believe that each of these sisters will continue as partners in this company when the cooperative strengthens economically. in a very short time,” she said.

Addressing the philosophy of cooperatives, Yazıcı pointed out: “The logic of the cooperative system is important, and cooperatives are an important phenomenon in terms of contributing to the family economy and the socialization of all those who work there. We left with my fellow female entrepreneurs in Şanlıurfa, and today I believe that this cooperative will be exemplary for Turkey in general, and Şanlıurfa and the region in particular, I hope that their number will increase.

“Women must achieve economic freedom”

Bahar Güler, one of the employees working in the cooperative, said: “We work here. Our working environment is very good. We can both socialize and work. It’s not like a work environment, it’s more like a home environment, like working from home. We are very happy. I hope that our cooperative will achieve something. We don’t think at all about the economic part, that is to say, we want it to grow. I want to call all the women here to work. Women should not depend on men. They should work. They should get their economic freedom.

Members of the all-female cooperative produce one of the region's iconic foods, Şanlıurfa, in southeastern Turkey, January 16, 2022. (IHA Photo)

The all-female cooperative at work in its kitchen in the city's technology park, Şanlıurfa, in southeastern Turkey, January 16, 2022. (IHA Photo)

Gülten Beyaz, another member of the cooperative, said: “I spent time alone at home because I didn’t have children. I was bored at home from time to time; you visit friends’ houses for one day, two days, three days. These visits are only pleasant to a certain extent. I was bored at home. Now, thanks to this work, we have a good time. Psychologically, we were also very good. Working here is like therapy. I go home happy.”

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Virginia S. Braud