Women's Perspective on Globalisation and Co-operation (1997)

----------------------------------------------------------------------
This document has been made available in electronic format
by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Dec., 1997
(Source: ICA Review, Vol.90 No.4, 1997, pp.103-104)

Womenęs Perspective on Globalisation and Co-operation
by Katarina Apelqvist
**********************************************

Let me start by noting that I am the first woman speaker in this
seminar on the global dimension of co-operatives. This is remarkable
considering the fact that women constitute more than half of the
population in the world. This should give a certain emphasis to what
I am going to say.   

My name is Katarina Apelqvist and I am here to represent the ICA
Global Womenęs Committee. I want to tell you why there should be
close liaison between the Womenęs Committee and the UN, and other
organisations.

Co-operation has demonstrated that it is a powerful tool for change. It
has worked on improving living conditions for the family unit, and on
stimulating community-wide and country-wide development.
Co-operation is a keystone in the democratisation process. This tool
could be even more powerful if womenęs needs, experience, skills and
values were equally represented.

For 150 years equality has been a fundamental co-operative
preoccupation. In the 20s the first resolution concerning gender equality
was adopted. However, as in other organisations and in most countries,
there is still a long way to go to achieve gender balance even in the
co-operative movement! Why is gender balance so important in
organisations and throughout all aspects of society and human life.

Ten years ago the answer would have been that it was a question of
rights, womenęs rights becoming equal to menęs rights. The answer
remains the same because women are still not accorded equal human
rights. But today it is also generally understood that it is imperative
that both womenęs and menęs perspectives must be applied to the
world view.

The existing imbalance between womenęs and menęs perspectives is
reflected in the massive imbalance in the worldęs economy. Major
financial decisions are now made at a global level and light years away
from the individuals who have to live with the results of these decisions.
In the widening vacuum between these individuals, who have needs and
demands which are ignored, and the few who hold all the real power,
national politicians desperately rush to and fro in their efforts to resolve
an increasing array of emergencies. Imbalance has caused the widening of
the chasm between the rich and poor, old and young, and between nations.
It undermines belief in parliamentary systems and in justice. Riots,
violence and unrest have become commonplace.

Rootlessness has become commonplace. The most frightening evidence
of this is that an increasing number of young people are growing up
without a sense of belonging, facing unemployment and powerlessness.
Their frustrations are expressed in aggression or apathy. How can
women help deal with these alarming developments?

In their traditional role women are closer to everyday reality. They
are closer to the grassroots of society and understand the causes of
frustrations and problems. Women must have the opportunity at all
decision-making levels to make use of their knowledge, skills and
experience so that decisions at the community, national and global level
are moulded by human needs, NOT powerlust and greed.
Because of their sensitivity and closeness to grassroots level women
are able to identify the need for change quickly. They prefer to seek
solutions through informal frameworks without hierarchical prestige.
This allows for flexibility, unconventional and often more speedily
implemented solutions. Women have always worked in this way at
community level, taking responsibility for the welfare of the community.

It is interesting to observe that this hitherto unacknowledged
entrepreneurship has now merited three labels "Civil society", "Social
economy" and "Third sector". The good news is that ICA, UN and other
organisations now have the insight to want to tap into womenęs experience
and entrepreneurial skills.

Since the 60s ICAęs Womenęs Committee has been committed to
improving living conditions from the grassroots level upwards. Committee
members are active in many co-operative areas working with such diverse
subjects as agriculture, retail operations, housing, and credit and finance.
Many of them are also active members  of other womenęs networks and
womenęs organisations outside co-operation at local, national and regional
levels. They collaborate on helping women to generate income and to
develop careers and they campaign for non sex discriminatory legislation.
Women committee members also work to improve reproductive health and
stop violence. They bring their knowledge and skills to bear on their work
for the Womenęs Committee.

Close liaison with representatives of the UN and other organisations can
make essential further use of their skills and knowledge. A good foundation
for collaboration could be an ICA Gender Plan based on the Beijing UN
Platform for Action. 

The ICA Global Womenęs Committee has suggested that ICA formulate
such a programme. It should be a concrete activity programme at the
sectoral, national, regional and global levels.

Letęs pool our resources to achieve positive change through better balance
between local, national and global levels. What we need is globalisation
serving people and NOT people serving globalisation!