WHO WE ARE
What is WIDCO?
The Women Initiative Development Cooperative Organization (WIDCO) is a ground-breaking organization created to assist the development of Women’s Initiatives in the developing world.
WIDCO was established in the 1990’s and is based in Cameroon, Africa – where women struggle to achieve basic human rights and decision-making power taken for granted in Western societies – WIDCO, provides support for non-governmental, international organizations who wish to work toward empowering African women.
Women’s exclusion in Africa from decision-making and lack of control of financial assets – key components that facilitate empowerment – is attributed mainly to the predominance of a historically-established patriarchal society. This patriarchal dominance perpetuates a socioeconomic dependency on men, reinforced by discriminatory laws and policy and traditional culture. Low literacy, low self esteem, and minimal skills are the unfortunate results of women’s exclusion from direct and constructive participation in public and economic life and negatively affect African women’s ability to contribute effectively to their society as a whole, or to improve their own and their family’s well-being.
Cameroon’s women constitute the majority of those living below the poverty line. Research shows that individual households – where economic well-being really begins – would be more secure if women had equitable power to control and budget household welfare and finances. Women are generally more concerned about community and more altruistic; they budget resources for necessities, rather than for personal gain. If allowed equal participation in the factors of production and development, women can improve the overall economic welfare of the culture. Research demonstrates that income-generation is directly related to the empowerment of women; raising living standards of rural women of Africa will raise living standards of all of Africa and contribute to economic well-being and growth worldwide, from both a practical and moral perspective.
The intense poverty that permeates much of Africa is a huge debilitating factor at both the personal and political levels. Economic growth will alleviate the multitude of problems associated with poverty. To promote economic growth, WIDCO seeks to develop practical strategies to promote women’s equality and empowerment. Cameroon’s women’s full potential has yet to be harnessed and incorporated.
WIDCO believes that the empowerment of women is the empowerment of men: Women’s empowerment should not be isolated into women’s groups.
The Women’s Initiative Development is a concept that has evolved into the creation of the Women’s Initiative Development Cooperative Organization (WIDCO), an organization – and philosophy – built on a “new concept on women empowerment.” WIDCO is based on developing and promoting a civil society organization in which both men and women work together.
WIDCO originated primarily in rural villages of Cameroon, where traditional beliefs and societal structures have typically relegated women to a position of servitude toward men and thus have historically inhibited women’s ability to fully develop their potential and contribute to society in a broader way. It is crucial that women are brought into the development of WIDCO as they have been representative of the most disadvantaged segment of rural society. They can comprehend the ramifications of poverty and know how to manage family life in impoverished situations. They not only experience poverty, they also live with discrimination, a discrimination that results in limited access to income, property ownership, and education.
WIDCO therefore has instituted an unusual organizational element: Within WIDCO’s organizational structure, while men and women are to work side-by-side, the highest posts (President and Treasurer) are reserved for women, and women are encouraged to pursue leadership and entrepreneurial roles. This is the only way to begin to achieve gender balance and to rectify embedded inequality and unequal participation in community interests and development.
As bedrocks of the family unit, women have much to contribute to WIDCO’s ultimate objectives and reason for being: alleviating the devastating and deep effects of poverty and improving the conditions of life for its rural populations. Education and capacity-building are the most important instruments of building WIDCO and a better society.
An important aspect in providing a credible base for WIDCO’s projects and ambitions is to benefit from funding assistance and to create micro-financing sources. WIDCO strives, therefore to seek fair and legal funding allocated for legitimate, targeted projects and demonstrating intended impact and results. There must always be an accessible communication link between donor and beneficiary, and all transactions must be transparent and follow-through on moral obligations.
WIDCO is not a women’s group or network. It aims to promote the unique abilities of women in groups where both men and women work together as a unit. WIDCO also believes that community development cannot disregard the cultural foundations and traditional values of the rural community but must build upon this base and respect its validity; otherwise the community will not be sustainable over the long term. The traditional potential of the community must be the bedrock for any social, economic, or political evolution.
In the WIDCO concept, every aspect of human life is significant: human rights, legislation, litigation, media, cultural traditions and customs, rural community development, building of roads and necessary infrastructures, education for women and children, diminishing crime, government and politics, business and its promotion, health, child welfare, clean and environment and new sources of renewable energy, etc. are all concerns of WIDCO and its endeavors.
Facilitating research and disseminating key concepts of national and international economic and social welfare regarding all women, information which can lead to productive policy and social change.
Research & Development65%
The WIDCO concept has two distinct aspects: (1) philanthropic services to the target community and (2) economic development and business promotion.
The philanthropic activities of the WIDCO structure are undertaken directly under the WIDCO umbrella, while economic and business promotion and income generation activities are done following the principle of the Cameroon Co-operative Movement as guided by the cooperative law in force. The economic empowerment structures of WIDCO are used to execute the concept of social, cultural and political empowerment of the women through leadership seminars and workshops and interventions.
Women’s involvement, and thus empowerment – whether social, cultural, economical, or political – must necessarily be perceived, and understood, as significant as that of men’s, if the national economy is to thrive and survive. Their contributions must be seen as inseparable from the lives of men. Empowering women is not just about “empowering women” but is a practical and universally-constructive action, essential to beneficial results for men, women, families, and the entire community.
WIDCO seeks to help women so that Africa can begin to save itself from poverty and eventually be a viable participant in the global economy and society.