Grass-roots member-owned cooperatives for female heads of households in rural Indonesia (PEKKA) empower the women members through three economic activities: community-based microfinance through savings and borrowing; a closed trading and marketing system, branded as PEKKA Mart; and economic lobbying and advocacy.
Fieldwork for the PEKKA cooperative Lodan Do’e on the impacts of these economic activities shows that through their membership of the cooperative, female heads of households were able to increase voice and agency over economic decision-making. They increased their access and control over resources, mainly through the saving and borrowing activities, as members could use loans from the cooperative to access land and improve control over their microbusinesses (e.g. pricing, investment). PEKKA Mart gave members some control over the local trading systems through closed value chains and collective purchasing. Self-organisation also shaped women’s autonomous grass-roots voice at village and district levels. However, control over society influences remains complicated due to tradition, culture and stigmas in society that still work against women. This case study shows that self-organisation in a cooperative has limitations if it does not link within the wider local economy to extend the cooperative network outside the strict cooperative structure. As such, PEKKA seeks to cooperate with economic actors and governmental actors, which has its challenges.