Zeinab Momany

Sakhrah Women's Society Cooperative
Year founded: 

The Sakhrah Women's Society Cooperative promotes the economic, social and cultural rights of women in remote and rural areas of Jordan.

Focus: Enterprise Development, Microfinance, Rural Development
Geographic Area of Impact: Jordan
Model: Social Business
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Jordan, 2008

About 20% of Jordanians live in rural areas, where poverty is more prevalent than in urban areas; approximately 19% of the rural population is classified as poor. Because of the arid nature of the land many rural poor people cannot grow enough crops to feed themselves and their families, and regular droughts exacerbate the situation. Thus, many of Jordan’s rural poor people live in extremely difficult conditions with limited opportunities to diversify their farming enterprises and gain access to alternative sources of income. As a result they lack collateral and cannot obtain loans needed for investment in farm activities. Sakhrah is just such a community in Jordan, with a population of 18,000 people and high rates of unemployment. Women here are duty-bound to take care of their children at home, since childcare centres do not exist.

Innovation and Activities
The Sakhrah Women’s Society Cooperative promotes the economic, social and cultural rights of women in the remote and rural areas of Jordan while operating as a successful for-profit cooperative. Its female members cultivate, manufacture, package and market the cooperative’s farming and crafts products and share in the profits, while their children are enrolled in the cooperative’s childcare programme or benefiting from school and university grants given by the group.

Zeinab Al Momany’s initial project in Sakhrah was to establish the Zain nursery and kindergarten that offers working women a safe place to leave their children with supervision during working hours. This also provides women the opportunity to engage in economically productive activities, who would otherwise be obliged to mind their children at home. With their children in good care, women can take advantage of loans provided by the cooperative to start their own enterprises and activities. It provides the technical training to become project managers of various agricultural and dairy initiatives, while also offering job opportunities for the people of area, such as teaching students through the nursery, kindergarten and the school.

The Sakhrah Women’s Society Cooperative was subsequently established to play an active role in the development of the community and reduce poverty and unemployment through the economic, social and cultural empowerment of women. It aims to raise the standard of living of local people through the creation of different self-sustaining projects such as a dairy plant, sewing workshop, and a grain processing and packaging project. The dairy products, grain and textiles are packaged, marketed and sold through various channels both within the community as well as exterior markets.

The cooperative now has 721 members involved in the cultivation and packaging of cereals, the manufacture of dairy products, textiles and crafts. It has 32 full-time staff involved in the management of microloans to members, training, packaging, marketing and sales of its members’ products. Each member contributes to the cooperative in the beginning of the year. These funds are invested into the various projects, and from the diversified sources of income the profits of the cooperative are distributed equally between all its members at the end of the year.

The Entrepreneur
Zeinab Al Momany was born in Irbid, Jordan, and received a BA in Elementary Education. She moved with her husband to the Sakhrah region and was inspired to find solutions to the problems of working mothers. These included caring for their children and providing free education for orphans and people with special needs, while reducing poverty and unemployment. She established the Zain nursery and kindergarten as the first step in 2002, followed by the Sakhrah Women’s Society Cooperative by the end of 2003. In 2006 she won first place in the King Abdullah II award for self-employment and leadership.