************************************************************ ICA POLICY ON WOMEN IN CO-OPERATIVE DEVELOPMENT ************************************************************ March 1993 Co-operatives are based on the idea of democracy and the full participation of each member without regard to gender and other arbitrary forms of discrimination. Despite this fact, women have been prevented from full participation in the co-operative development process due to discriminatory legislation, traditional economic dependence and prejudice. Policy Background One of the primary objectives of the ICA is to act as a catalyst for co-operative development in all parts of the world. Both the ICA Policy for Co-operative Development and the ICA Policy on Human Resource Development (HRD) were formulated in order to outline strategies to guide activities in the areas of co- operative development. Although women have been included within these policies, follow-up in terms of strategies and programmes has been inconsistent. The participation of women in co-operatives has been a concern of the ICA since 1895. The Women's Co-operative Guild which later gave rise to the ICA Women's Committee, was and continues to be active in promoting women's full participation in co- operatives. However, in the absence of a clear ICA Global policy providing guidelines for the formulation of viable strategies for women, existing programmes have not been able to sufficiently focus on women. Cognizant of the fact that previous efforts to promote women's role in co-operatives have produced inadequate results, the ICA has formulated this global Policy on Women in Co-operative Development. Development Objectives The aim of the ICA Policy on Women in Co-operative Development is twofold: (a) to assure the effective participation and full integration of women in co-operative development at all levels, and (b) to contribute to the effective implementation of the ICA Policy for Co-operative Development in accordance with the ICA Policy on HRD in Co-operatives in the Third World. The ICA Policy for Co-operative Development emphasizes the establishment and growth of independent, democratic and viable co-operative organizations, in which men and women participate on equal terms. These co-operative organizations must be capable of serving their members efficiently and contributing to economic and social equity in their respective communities and countries. The ICA Policy on HRD in Co-operatives emphasises the need for intensified education and mobilization programmes for members, particularly for women, who to a great extent have been overlooked but are essential to the overall success and development of the co-operative movement. Target Groups Broad participation through the mobilization of the total human potential for development is a prerequisite for the achievement of our policy objective. It is therefore essential that the following institutions and groupings be involved in this process: 1. States and Policy-makers In many parts of the world, especially in developing countries characterized by economic stagnation and negative growth, continued population increase, heavy debt burden and adjustment programmes with subsequent reduction of public expenditures for social programmes, the situation of women has deteriorated. In order for women's rights to be guaranteed, it is essential that: * women's needs, skills and resources be acknowledged, * constitutions, laws and civic and labour codes be revised in order to eliminate the legal basis for discrimination, * legal protection be provided for women's access to land ownership, credit, basic education, training, health, child-care facilities and other social services that are necessary for the full integration of women into the development process. 2. Development Agencies Development agencies have for decades primarily targeted men in their projects which have been for the most part designed by men. It is therefore essential that: * gender planning methods be applied which take into account the different needs and roles of women in society, * it be recognized that by ignoring women's key role in economic development, the potential for development is seriously undermined, * loan programmes be initiated. 3. Financial Institutions Restrictions in access to credit limit the productive contribution of women. Factors that inhibit women's demands are transaction costs, collateral requirements, cumbersome application procedures and cultural constraints. It is therefore essential that: * reforms of financial markets, development of loan programmes, intermediary institutions, advisory services and legal reforms be initiated to facilitate women's access to finance, * promotion of thrift and credit co-operatives, which have a proven record of involving women, be encouraged. 4. Training Institutions Women's co-operatives have often lacked business skills and administrative capacity due to the inadequate provision of education and training for women. It is therefore essential that: * provision be made for specialized education and training programmes for women, aimed at developing their financial, technical and managerial skills, and * financial support such education and training be provided. 5. Women's Groupings To boost women's participation, it is essential that women's groups and individuals: * build informal or support networks for women, * introduce, if necessary, special measures to increase the proportion of women involved in decision-making, * encourage women to fully exercise their rights, * maintain rosters of qualified women. 6. Members, Committee Members, Co-operative Leaders and Staff Co-operatives in which the talents and capabilities of women are given full play will enjoy great advantages in the future. It is therefore essential that gender awareness be promoted, so that: * women be enabled to occupy positions in a complete sense as members and managers, * women be promoted to decision-making positions at every level. Activities In order to translate the policy aims into affirmative action, the ICA will address issues that highlight the close linkage between gender issues and development, e.g.: (a) gender analysis/awareness and sensitization, (b) revision of existing policies and strategies for co- operative development (c) education and training programmes/capacity building, (d) networking, (e) policy dialogue, (f) research, (g) resource mobilization, (h) information, (i) advisory services, (j) establishment of mechanisms to implement gender policies. Role of the ICA The ICA will: (a) promote women's role within the co-operative movement and co-operative projects, (the advantages and disadvantages of women only versus mixed co-operatives should be determined on a case-by-case basis), (b) be a catalyst and coordinator of gender programmes and mobilize / identify donor support, (c) promote women's/gender committees, or gender issues within the framework of HRD committees, (d) promote and influence action and discussion on gender issues in international, national and regional fora, (e) assist member organizations and training institutions in formulating policies, strategies and programmes designed to promote the role of women in co-operatives. Regional Policies The priorities for gender programmes would differ from region to region. Hence, it is suggested that the various regional offices should formulate priorities, strategies and policies for their gender programmes in consultation with regional bodies. Conclusion The ICA Board calls upon the member organizations to implement the gender policy with vigour and requests the development partners to support the efforts of the ICA and its regional offices in this direction. A concerted effort of this nature is enjoined on all engaged in co-operative development programmes for preparing the co-operatives to enter the 21st century with renewed confidence and strength.