Afyonkarahisar Women’s Culture Houses and Cooperatives / Afyonkarahisar Governorship Project Coordinator İlknur Yüksel Dönmez

How did the idea to set up your cooperative come about? When and how did you install it? Can you share your founding story?

In the districts of our province, the working styles of women, who are naturally at every stage of production, are seen as “family work”, which is not a form of work. Our women sell the local products they produce using traditional methods at low prices and cannot provide sustainable sales. To meet these needs, we first took steps to create suitable spaces for women leaving formal education to participate in income-generating activities through the process of lifelong learning. First of all, we started opening Women’s Culture Houses in all our districts and cities by renovating the vacant public buildings. In our Women’s Culture Houses, entrepreneurship, e-commerce, marketing and sales etc. We have enabled women to meet experts in their field. In the second phase, we set up 18 women’s cooperatives to increase the labor participation of women. When our cooperation process started in January 2021, we had the opportunity to get in touch with many women’s cooperatives in our country. With the needs analysis we made, we turned to the central advisory service of our cooperatives. Currently, all our cooperatives are engaged in customer relations, sales, marketing, digital marketing, social media, digital advertising, internet sales, etc. receive direct consultancy services on issues.

Did you have trouble accessing financing when you started your business? How have you benefited from the support?

All purchases of raw materials, machinery and equipment needed during the establishment phase of our cooperatives were attempted to fulfill our projects for which we were successfully entitled to grants during the 2021 Call for Proposals. In fact, a budget of about 2,500,000 TL was created in the call of SOGEP (Social Development Support Program) 2021, 157,000 TL in the call of PRODES (Project Support System), 750,000 TL in the call of KOOPDES (Cooperatives Support Program) , and all of our cooperatives within our organization gradually benefited from these government subsidies.

What products do you make? To which target group do you want to deliver your products?

Our women produce more than 500 products, from souvenirs to household textiles, from food to agricultural production. The products of our cooperatives were offered for sale at 6 women’s culture markets in our province. In addition, our women participated in e-commerce with the online shopping site that we founded within the Afyon Education Foundation to increase the market share of our women’s cooperatives in e-commerce.

What development trend has your cooperative followed since its inception? How many people did you start with, how many members do you have now?

In our Cooperatives of Women’s Culture Houses, 340 women became self-employed and 68 women insured. Our cooperatives; It also supports 290 women who produce at home. Our women in our cooperatives have contributed 10,000,000 TL to the national economy over a period of about a year.

What can you say about employment and exports? Can you share your goals on these issues?

Our Women’s Culture Houses and Cooperatives have touched the lives of approximately 100,000 women in our province over a period of approximately 22 months. These numbers are very important in demonstrating the ability to achieve our short-term and long-term goals. Our short-term goals, of course, are to reach more women by increasing the number of members in our cooperatives. We are aware that this requires our cooperatives to achieve a significant market share in the domestic and international market. In that sense, to our women; customer focus, product design, sales and marketing strategies, etc. We provide training and consultancy services on issues. With this structure that we have created, we want to contribute through cooperatives to give women in our province and our country a greater place in social and economic life.

What are the difficulties of being a women’s cooperative? What do you do in these difficulties?

The general idea that drives women to become cooperatives in our country is the transfer of homework, which is very common among women and is not a form of work, to the cooperative structure. Therefore, we can state that the need to rethink the production and marketing experiences of women of the past in accordance with the current market conditions is one of the major problems. Another is to have a place in e-commerce, which is an indispensable part of today’s world. All our women’s cooperatives have a central advisory service to overcome these difficulties.

What are the aspects that distinguish you from other cooperatives?

When we talk about women’s cooperatives in our country, the first thing that comes to mind is commercial structures made up of women who produce and sell seasonally. This is, by the way, the situation of many women’s cooperatives in our country. As Afyonkarahisar Women’s Culture Houses and Cooperatives, we have moved beyond this traditional structure. By the way, all our cooperatives are cooperatives that produce twelve months a year and have a sustainable market network in the retail and wholesale trade. All production and market activities of our 17 cooperatives are directly controlled centrally and precautions are taken against possible negativity.

How will the prizes you win in the Halkbank Producing Women Contest benefit your cooperative?

The award we received is a great source of motivation for our women; and be an example to other women.

Can you talk about your future goals?

As women’s culture houses and cooperatives, our main goal is to ensure that Afyonkarahisar women lead each other and their environment as social, productive and entrepreneurial individuals.


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