*********NEWS FROM THE REGIONS******* **EUROPE** Progress Report on ICA European Region ICA's recently elected European Council met for the first time in Strasbourg, France on 31 March. There was full participation which enabled a thorough discussion of the following issues: The work programme of ICA Europe, the implementation of the project approved by DG XXIII of the European Commission for funding selected activities, the preparation of the Memorandum of Understanding to be signed between ICA Europe and CCACC (the Coordinating Committee of the sectoral associations in Brussels), the revision of the Rules for ICA Europe, the application to the Council of Europe for Consultative Status, the agreement with Co-op Network as well as the European contribution to the Centennial Congress. At the invitation of Centrosoyuz of Russia the next meeting will be held on 11 July in St. Petersburg. It will be followed by a three-day Seminar, one on Corporate Governance and Management Control Systems and the other, on 12-13 July - in co-operation with Plunkett Foundation - on Co-operative Finance and Co-operative Legislation. Beijing to Host Network Seminar The far-reaching changes in the Chinese economy in recent years have had an impact on the co-operatives which are now free from State control and competing on the open market. The situation in China is of interest for co-operative organisations worldwide. The Co-op Network for Development in East and Central Europe and the All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Co-operatives are, therefore, organising a seminar and study tour in Beijing from 6-10 November, 1995 to which all members of ICA are welcome to attend for a minimal fee which covers the organisational costs only. For further details please contact Mats Anhlund in Geneva. Telephone (41 22) 929 88 29 or Fax: (41 22) 798 41 22. Informal Women's Network ICA Women's Committee has decided to establish an informal network. in Europe to "address problems of discrimination through an exchange of information, prevent feelings of isolation by giving mutual support, and influence decision making to enable the progress of women." Due to lack of resources it was not possible to create a formal European Regional Women's Committee, however the Committee believes that an informal 'network' will prove to be a inexpensive and effective solution in the exchange of ideas for the advancement of women. Among the suggestions for raising the status of women were the circulation of a mailing list, the publication of a newsletter, electronic communications via the Internet, and more coverage of Women's issues in ICA publications and members' magazines. It was also suggested that a representative from each organisation could communicate information to 'networkers' in their own region to keep mailing costs down. Some recent efforts include a Gender Issues Report in the current ICA Review, the formation of a small task force consisting of Moira Lees, Mary Treacy, and Raija Itkonen (ICA Board member) to prepare reports for the Centennial Congress 1995, and the future ICA Women's Committee seminar which promises to include subjects such as: "training and re-training in management skills relevant to a changing economic scenario, practices which discriminate against women, childcare provision and maternity leave, environmental protection, consumer rights, and laws and their effect on women's rights." ************************************** **THE AMERICAS** New Regional Structure Under Way Following the November 1994 decision of the ICA's Regional Assembly for the Americas to establish a Consultative Committee to maintain more regular contact with co-operatives in the continent, the Committee held its first meeting in San Jos=E9, Costa Rica, on 20-21 March. The Committee, chaired by ICA Vice-President Roberto Rodrigues, decided that the Regional Office for Central America and the Caribbean (ROCAC) should henceforth be known as the Regional Office for the Americas (ROAM) in light of its new continental mandate, and that it should continue to be based in San Jose. It was agreed that the Regional Council, which had supported the work of ROCAC since its establishment in 1990, should be thanked for its valuable work, and disbanded. If specific sub-regional activities are required in the future, they should be carried out through ICA Project Offices, such as the current Project Office in Buenos Aires for the countries of the Southern Cone. The Committee reviewed, revised, and approved the Regional Office's workplan for 1995, which is based on the three priorities of promoting business opportunities for co-operatives, developing human resources, and promoting the co-operative principles. The major regional event for 1995 will be the ICA Regional Conference on Strategic Alliances and Joint Ventures, scheduled for 6-8 December in Miami. More than 600 co-operative leaders are expected to participate in the sessions designed to generate co-operative business and trade opportunities. Conference sponsors include the World Bank, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, Inter-American Development Bank, Developpement International Desjardins, and Swedish Co-operative Centre. Further information is available from Juan Diego Pacheco, ICA Regional Director for the Americas, fax (506-231 5842). **Asia and the Pacific** Supporting Tanzania's Business Women by IPS Correspondent in Dar-es-Salaam Paul Chintowa Women in Tanzania, as in the rest of Africa, are the backbone of rural communities. They work the fields and maintain the home - and get scant reward. Now a scheme is attempting to help them plough some of the little money they have saved into income-generating projects. The idea is simple - to support credit schemes among women cooperative members. Women, who make up more than half of the country's population of 28 million people, find the first hurdle to setting up a business is access to credit. Getting a loan from a commercial bank is a nightmare of form-filling and intrusive questioning. "One has to have collateral before he or she gets a loan," explains Laura Maro, a widow and mother of three children benefiting from a programme tailored by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). Maro is among 30,000 women in Tanzania's northern region of Kilimanjaro who are being helped by the ICA to set up savings and credit associations to raise capital for their businesses. The ICA offers training in book-keeping and savings and credit management for women in cooperative development, the ICA's priority area. Maro and her 50 colleagues contributed a total of 200,000 shillings (about 400 dollars) two years ago to form the 'Masasa' women's credit association. "The money we contributed acted as shares. Each member is allowed to borrow not more than half of what she has contributed," she adds. "I had to repay the loan with an interest rate of only two percent and I am very happy that I have repaid my loan," says Maro, now a tailor in Moshi, a town on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain. Commercial banks, unlike the savings and credit associations, charge interest rates of up to 30 percent on their loans, far too much for rural-based customers. "Women can work and improve their lives if they are helped on how to go about setting up the associations," says the ICA's project manager for East, Central and Southern Africa, Labourn Minishi. "Our aim is to give women an orientation so that they can run their work efficiently without problems. We visit them regularly to see their performance," he adds. The ICA is a non-profit making organisation founded in 1895 with the aim of uniting, representing and serving co-operatives in the world. The regional work of ICA includes research and planning and the regional offices and project offices act as consultants in co-operative development in the different regions. Other credit associations helped by the ICA in Tanzania are among subsistence coffee and maize growers who use their loans to buy fertiliser, pesticides and to make improvements to their farms. Coffee is a leading export crop for Tanzania and earns the country some 100 million dollars each year. Agriculture remains Tanzania's main economic activity, contributing 50 percent of GDP and representing 70 percent of the country's hard currency earnings. Growing unemployment is a serious headache for the authorities. Job creation in the formal sector has dwindled from 30,000 a year in the 1970s to a current low of 9,000. On-going donor-backed economic reforms have resulted in 50,000 public service workers being laid off in the past few years as the government attempts to cut its spending.In addition, the army of unemployed is increasing with 600,000 school drop-outs annually who join the jobless queue. A labour force survey conducted in 1991 showed that nearly 2.4 million Tanzanians are engaged in the informal sector. This represents about 22 percent of the total employed. The majority of informal sector workers are based in rural areas engaged in activities such as fishing, quarrying and charcoal making. In the towns they are artisans. Their numbers are almost certainly now far more than the four-year-old labour survey first revealed. The government has ignored the importance of developing this part of the economy. Tanzania had run a heavily state-regulated system which had virtually guaranteed employment in the public sector until a U-turn in the late 1980s provoked by an economy on the verge of collapse. The ICA credit scheme is attempting to provide support to small-scale businesses struggling to get a foot-hold in the market.