Scotmid aids Indian pandemic recovery

When the Delta variant hit India with devastating effect last year, Scotmid Co-operative and a group of other co-op retailers from across the UK banded together to do something about it. They collectively raised over £100,000 to support the crisis response, and what began as short-term relief has evolved into something that will help for years to come.

During the initial crisis period, £70,000 of the donation from Scotmid and other UK co-ops was used to provide emergency support. This included the distribution of 4,000 household health kits, with masks, soap and immune boosters distributed across eight states of India. Lifesaving information about the symptoms and spread of Covid was also provided to families in rural and low-income urban areas – to dispel myths and provide accurate health information.

The remaining £30,000 is now being used to deliver a two-year programme supporting the development of two young women’s incubator co-operatives. A grassroots media co-operative will support more than 40 young women to train in media, journalism, graphic design, photography and new media, whilst a second grassroots co-operative will focus on research, conducting surveys, focus group discussion and report writing.

Co-operatives UK worked with the Co-operative College and Co-op News to co-ordinate the appeal, partnering with SEWA in India who are delivering the programme. Mirai Chatterjee (Chairperson, SEWA Cooperative Federation) explained what the partnership meant to Indian women:

“Women in India mainly work informally meaning their earnings can be unreliable and as soon as the crisis hit many lost their income overnight. Thanks to the vital support provided by our co-operative friends in the UK, we’re helping them to form two grassroots co-operatives to create a sustainable livelihood for themselves.

“As well as learning technical skills in communications and research, around forty young women will develop leadership and business management skills, and we’re developing market links to help them secure regular work and provide income security.”

One of the women who will benefit from this support is Pranaliben, a 20-year-old woman from Ahmedabad City. After completing her graduate studies from a local university, Pranaliben struggled to find sustained employment which was made worse by the pandemic.

Through her mother, a member of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), she got in touch with SEWA Cooperative Federation and learnt about cooperatives. Now she is eager to work together with young women like herself and lead her own cooperative.

“This worthwhile partnership demonstrates the strength of co-operation," Harry Cairney (Scotmid President) reflects. "We’re proud to be a part of this initiative to grant young women in India, like Pranaliben, the necessary skills and opportunities needed to secure a regular income.”

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