Coopa Roca – Brazil

Linked with our presentation of Maria Teresa Leal – Brazil, and … realities about business and poverty ….

The mission statement of COOPA-ROCA, Rocinha Seamstress and Craftwork Co-operative Ltd is to provide conditions for its members, female residents of Rocinha, to work from home and thereby contribute to their family budget, without having to neglect their childcare and domestic duties. The work developed at COOPA-ROCA has made it possible to improve the quality of life of the craftswomen and, indirectly, also their families. Apart from providing work which can be carried out at home and generating extra income, an improvement can be seen in terms of professional quality, in general health (through voluntary work by acupuncturists) and in their self-esteem. It has also lead to a collective intrinsic understanding of the practices of a co-operative as clearly demonstrated by COOPA-ROCA´s impact on the local community.

Established at the beginning of the 80s, COOPA-ROCA arose as an offshoot from a recycling project involving the local children (1981). The craftwork produced from textile remnants was the idea behind organising the first group of women and then later the formation of the co-operative.


During its first few years COOPA-ROCA focussed its activities on organising and evaluating the group of women, generating a small production force aimed at developing decorative craftwork products by reviving traditional Brazilian craft techniques such as drawstring appliqué, crochet, knot work and patchwork.
Artisanal production has gained recognition thanks to COOPA-ROCA´s professional approach supported by the high standards of its members. Its vision is to increase the social impact on the Rochina community, turning it into a national reference as a social introduction to low-income communities of how work and income can be generated.
At the moment the cooperative has approximately 150 members along with important partners in the fashion and decorative design market. These partnerships have been formed throughout the various events realized by COOPA-ROCA. (Read more on coopa roca.org).

The Coopa-Roca sewing cooperative perches high up in Rocinha, South America’s largest favela or shantytown, a Cubist jumble of tin rooftops, spindly antennae, and bare-brick walls. People navigate the concrete labyrinthine passageways single-file. (Read more on changemakers).

Coopa-Roca’s mission is to provide flexible employment opportunities to women from low-income families who live in Rocinha, particularly opportunities for single mothers to work from home.

The co-operative formed as an offshoot from a recycling project involving local children. The first group of women was organized to produce decorative craftwork made with textile remnants and using traditional Brazilian techniques such as drawstring appliqué, crochet, knot work and patchwork.

The co-op employs more than 150 women, most of whom are homemakers who had never worked before. Its office is still based in the middle of the favela. All decisions are made collectively and the women share the responsibilities of production, administration and publicity. Most women work from home, but they come to the office to bring their finished pieces and to get more fabric.

At first the co-op’s biggest challenge was finding outlets for their products. As the project has grown, Tetê has been able to focus on training younger women as new leaders in the community. Although conditions in the favela are still difficult, the women say the co-op has given them a chance to improve their quality of life dramatically. (Read on pbs.org).

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