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Bronx Co-Op Gives Female Immigrants Business Savvy Edge

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As the city continues to encourage New Yorkers to become business owners, a Bronx non-profit is hoping a recently awarded job training grant for female immigrants will inspire a new wave of local entrepreneurs. Borough reporter Erin Clarke filed the following report.

In a location that would probably go unnoticed by many, immigrants are learning how to become Americans.

"We work with women, many of them are not comfortable in English and are experiencing a lot of the economic issues that many new New Yorkers experience coming from the developing world," Westchester Square Partnership Director Alison Karasz.

Through a number of programs, Westchester Square Partnership addresses social and health-related needs for South Asian women. This month, the organization received a job training grant from the City Council speaker to help in their efforts. Training would specifically teach women how to develop workers' cooperatives.

"They would come to our space and learn how to build a business together. A workers cooperative is based on a democratic system where each owner, each member is an owner and each owner has one vote in terms of determining how the organization or the business is run," said Westchester Square Partnership Outreach and Advocacy Director Moumita Zaman.

Asari Jahan, a member of two Brooklyn co-ops, says they're a path to financial independence and a way for women to also contribute to the family.

"Whatever I get from my client, 100 percent is my money, so I can budget with that money and I help to spend that money to my son's education," Jahan said.

The goal is to help women become business owners, perhaps along one stretch in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx where many of them live and the South Asian community is growing.

"In recent years there's been a really big influx of immigrants from Bangladesh in particular. The Bronx has a really, really big Bangladeshi population. It's kind of a vibrant, growing community and underserved,"

According to the city, co-ops, on average, provide higher wages, better job stability, and more benefits than self-employed businesses in low-income communities, so connecting women who want to work within the South Asian community with the information to build a successful business is not only helping them individually, but also their greater community.

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