Often working hard (and usually on a volunteer basis) throughout the year and always with plenty of drive and ‘meraki’ (passion), women’s cooperatives around Greece significantly contribute to both locals’ and foreigners’ discovery of tasty regional foods. They carry on traditions that go back many generations, cultivating or gathering local natural ingredients to use in classic and new recipes. Their products are sold at local women’s cooperative stores and other traditional food shops in most regions and sometimes beyond. From homemade pasta and liquors to preserves and olive oil cosmetics, their products are pure, made with love and wonderful to take home as a souvenir. However, women’s cooperatives are waning: in 2013 there were 140 of them nationwide, and today there are only 100 remaining, several of those on the verge of closing shop. The bitter consequences of the financial crisis have affected their operations as much as everything else.
Enter the Mama’s Flavours team, also known as ‘Ippoliti,’ who are setting up a website, due to launch in February, that will aim to connect all the women’s cooperatives in Greece, showcasing their products and offering a digital sales platform. “The main intent of our initiative is to help these women present and sell their products, but there’s definitely more to it than that,” says Maria Monastirioti, who is heading the project and a team of four.
“We will be offering education and training to women so they can utilize new technologies, generate innovative ideas and use social media to better present and market themselves, and to ensure they have more chances of surviving.” Last December Mama’s Flavours met with around 33 representatives of Greek women’s cooperatives, who were asked to fill in forms revealing their main needs, obstacles and goals. “The enthusiasm we received was huge,” Monastirioti says, “and we are very determined to see this work. Indeed, Greece is only the first step on the initiative to support, train and empower women’s cooperatives – the long-term goal for Ippoliti (or Mama’s Flavours) will be to create a European and Mediterranean network as well.