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Japanese Co-operatives organise Women’s Forum (1998)

Sept, 1998
(Source: Asia-Pacific Co-op News, Vol. 5, No.2, May-August.1998, pp. 6-7)

Japanese Co-operatives organise Women’s Forum

Thinking About Gender issues  and Women’s participation in Co-operatives  was the theme of the Co-operative Women’s Forum held in Tokyo during July 7-8, 1998.

This forum was organized by the JJC (Japan Joint Committee of Co-operatives) in collaboration with JA ZENCHU, National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations and the Japanese Consumer Co-operative Union.

Representing co-operatives nationwide, 123 women leaders from agriculture, fishery and consumer co-operatives gathered to discuss gender issues facing co-operatives today.

The participants had a lecture on “What we can do now to create Gender Equal Society”. Reports on the current situation of women’s participation in decision making in various co-operatives were also presented.

After the plenary meeting, all the members of the forum then divided up into four workshops where the discussions focused on two central themes, (1) Defining the gender problem, and (2) What  are the issues and concerns with women partici-pation in the decision making process of agriculture, fishery and consumer co-ops?

Participants were particularly interested and happy about the  participatory style of discussions.

On the second day of the forum, representatives from each co-operative gathered for panel discussions. The discussion centered on the theme of the forum:  “Gender issues and Women’s Participation in Co-operatives, Today”.

In the open discussion on the floor, a forum participant from Aomori Agricultural Co-operative described a case study involving herself who was elected as a member of Agricultural Council. She was a member of the women's group of the  Aomori Agricultural Co-op, which developed direct buying routes with Aomori Consumer Co-operative society.

The women’s contributions to the business of the agricultural co-operatives were duly recognized,  which consequently led to having contesting for the Agricultural Council and with the backing of the Agricultural co-operatives, she was successfully elected.

This case study stands as a positive example of how women are gaining recognition, and while contributing to the co-op movement, through cooperation among co-operatives.

The forum ended with the participants adopting a declaration that will be presented at the Asia and Pacific Regional Women’s Forum during the the ICA Regional Assembly in Seoul.

Declaration of Japanese Co-operative Women’s Forum,1998
We have only two and a half years to encounter the New Millennium. It was in  the 20th century when discrimination among women and men all over the world has been universally recognized and actions taken to eliminate such problems.

We, who are living  now, should play important roles to continuously strengthen these  actions and create the peaceful and sustainable society where people can live human life.

We are very happy to hear that the ICA Regional Women’s Committee for Asia and the Pacific will be established by the efforts and the support of many concerned people since the ICA Tokyo Congress in 1992.

To take this opportunity, we have gathered at the Japanese Co-operative Women’s Forum today. During these two days, we have discussed our ‘presents’ and ‘futures’ on the theme of the Forum, which is “Women co-operators now : From the Gender Perspectives”.

In Japan, traditional notions based on stereotyped gender roles are still persisting in our society and co-operatives are not exceptions. Through discussion in this Forum, we have recognized that there are many issues which we, women co-operators, should work  together to tackle with.

We would like to call all the participants to take actions regarding to following issues, when we go back to our own societies and communities;

Women’s active participation is pre-requisite for the co-operative development in the next century. We pledge ourselves to work hard to make our co-operative organizations ‘gender equal’ and strongly support the activities of ICA Regional Women’s Committee for Asia and the Pacific.