This document has been made available in electronic format by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) 


Prof. Dr. Zofia CHYRA-ROLICZ
Agricultural and Pedagogical Academy, Siedlce
Co-operative Research Institute, Warsaw

The social and professional women's activity has had very long tradition in Poland from the end of XIX century. The co-operative movement had been opened for women very early, but the power of tradition was very strong, closing for women more important positions in co-ops created mainly by men.

In spite that in Poland we had women co-operators: ideologists and good organizators (like Henryka Habicht-Starzewska, writer Maria Dabrowska, Maria Orsetti, Wanda Papiewska), the real emancipation in co-operative movement lasted long time, with the visible results in the Second Republic (1918-1939)1. In 1935 women established themselves the Ligue of Women Co-operators in Poland, promoted this movement and feminine activity in it, especially in consumer and housing co-ops. The Ligue acted in Warsaw and in bigger towns, associated almost 3000 members in countrywide. In rural areas co-operatives ideas were supported by peasants' political movement as the way of civilisation's progress. Rural women's activity in consumer, comercial, dairy and artisans co-ops was promoted by the housewifes' circles different political orientations. The well developing co-operative activity among women and made by women broke down the second world war.

After the second world war, during the time of Polish People's Republic professional activity of women was very high in every area of labour becouse of political reasons and misery of millions families in towns and villages. Women were the 1/3 of co-ops' members (5,279 millions) in 1987. The most popular among women were: „Cepelia" artisans and craftsmen co-ops (87,2%), consumer co-ops (68,4%), labour co-ops (55%), disabled persons co-ops (54%) and peasants' self-help co-ops (41,5%). In 1988 all kinds of co-ops employed 1,996 mln persons, including 1,098 mln women (55%), almost the same percent like at the national economy in this time.

Co-ops had very interesting attainments in providing special centres of services facilitated life of housekeepers working out their homes. Consumer co-ops organized in towns so called Centres for Practical Ladies (537 in 1988) and rural co-ops - Centres of Modern Housewifes (1237 in 1988)2. Co-ops provided rich social and cultural activity for members and their families, integrated to co-ops women and youth. There were no special law barrieras against work of women, but the power of tradition and very difficult conditions of living in Poland caused that women took rather lower position in co-ops, seldom in managing boards. Co-ops in urban and rural areas rendered possibly the work for women in more flexibly circumstances, in part-time or as artisans-cottagers at home. It had important meaning for mothers taking care of children. Womanish work and salaries had also big meaning in undeveloped regions.

The large group of women working in many kinds of co-ops had representation in the Committee of Women-Co-operators (earlier up to 1981 the National Department of Women Co-operators), the special unit of the Superior Co-operative Council3. This feminine organisation had kept large contacts with international co-operative movement, bringing to Polish co-ops new ideas and technical innovations like self-service's shops.

During the political and economical transformation in 90ties the role of co-ops in national economy weakned considerably, also the women position on the labour market much weakned. Women were the first to lost the job in national and private enterprices, also in co-ops. In 1996 in co-ops worked only 613,8 thousands persons - it's about 72,5% less than in 19894. We have not statistical data to compare women's employment in co-ops in 1996. Many of unemployed women in towns and in countryside tried to establish their own business, to make the job for themselves in private sector of economy. Women have endeavoured with great engagement to adapte and rescue their co-ops to the new economic reality, to solve difficult problems in different co-operative branches in urban and rural areas.

Consumer co-ops have been the branch very closed to women's interests as housekeeper making everyday shopping. Many women have worked in co-ops at all levels. Sometimes they have provided co-ops as chairmen of management bodies, getting ready with difficult problems of market economy. The big problems of 90ties in this branch was an appearance of rich international trade networks, which entered to Poland well organised with attractive goods, modern patterns of marketing and promotions. The foreign trade companies built many new supermarkets and shopping centres, which attracted clients. Consumer co-ops confirmed suddenly big descent of turnovers (approximatly less 30-40%), they lose this rivalary. It was neccesary to pick up these difficult challenges, to adapt the co-ops to the new situation on the market, to modernize business - thinking, to create developing strategies and modernize co-operative's shops and technical equipments. All of it was so much difficult for primary co-ops in much worse general situation of Polish co-operative movement after the  act of 20th  January 1990. This act put into liquidation all co-operatives' unions. In consequence Polish co-ops lost big part of their property (mainly: the best located shops, restaurants, wholesales, magazines, food-processing and other small industry, factories, which were privatised very quickly) and became this difficult rivalary with foreign trade companies much weakned.

The assistance of Swedish  co-operators (Kooperativa Forbundet Project Center AB from Stockholm)  helped Polish consumer co-ops to creates their own network of „Lux" shops, selling more attractive goods and also the network of cheaper discount shops. Consumer co-ops „Spolem"s network of „Lux" and discount shops have built from autumn 1994 and it has worked very well. There are about 65 these shops in towns and countryside.

One from the consumer co-ops taking part in this program of modernisation the traditional trade, is the co-op in Wegrów (Siedlce district), provided by Mrs Antonina Lis, the chairman of management body. She had attended the special trainings organized in Siedlce with the assistance of Swedish co-operators5. Which had shown how to arange moderm trade-business and shops. In this new situation - in her opinion - it is necessary to use rationaly all co-op's buildings and trade areas, to make better culture of trading, to take care of the best supply, also of shop's estetics. It is also very important don't make too risky business. Mrs chairman schemes in her co-op to joint different branches (food, industrial) in one area of a big shop, according the moders patterns of foreign companies. „The most important are clients, if they will by satisfy, so they will come back to co-ops's shops" - there is the new philosophy of  business (or rather old one reminded in  market economy) as an  answer for challenges of the time. Co-operators, management staff and workers try to realize this simply knowledge at every place of work.

The consumer co-ops' monthly magazine „Spolem" has published every year the list of 100 the  best co-ops, gaining the high turnover. The big, rich and well organized the General Consumer's Co-op „Spolem" (PSS) in Bialystok has been placed on the top of this list for several years. Mrs Krystyna Sosinska works as a chairman of management board in this old co-op, which last year celebrated its 100 anniversary. Last year co-op from Bialystok win new big success - the golden medal at the Third National Co-operative Fair in Lublin for its production, namely bread and another baking6. The modernisation of big multi-branch co-op's grocery called „Delicatessen" in the old city of Bialystok  brought  also a financial success. Very moderm and elegant shop with great variety of goods has even cheaper prices then in private shops. This success was also prepared by Mrs Lidia Wisniewska -the chairman of marketing unit.

Another good example of women's entrepreneurship is from Nowa Huta, a quarter of Kraków7. Mrs Danuta Bogda, the chairmen of managing board and Mrs Genowefa Krupa, the chairmen of Supervisory Council take care about co-op, which associated approximatly 900 members and employed 450 persons. To this co-op belongs 25 shops, 4 milk-bars and 2 restaurtants.The co-op in Nowa Huta lost very much from its property at the beginning of 90ties. From 140 shops - remained in it possesion 25, from 35 bars and restaurants - only 7. It provides its activity among rather poor people, families of workers, which lost jobs in last years in heavy industry. In spite of difficult economical condition the co-op managed by Mrs D. Bogda win a struggle of surviving. It develops production of cheap, ready to cook foods and supports the net of milk-bars, where unemployment people and pensioners can feed themselves. This activity is very closed to social-services co-ops, but in Nowa Huta nobody help them. The co-op should make a profit, so the business philosophy is taking the great possible advantage with the minimal costs.

Women play also an important role in the General Consumer Co-op „Spolem" in Jelenia Góra, which has a network of 12 own shops and 6 rented ones8. Mrs Zofia Krasowska is a chairmen of Supervisory Council and Mrs Ewa Losik is a secretary there. The co-op has own supermarket „Jubilat", not worse than one under management of foreign company. The directory here is Mrs Maria Kulczyk. Women also get a success in smaller shops: former book-keeper Mrs Krystyna Poplawska provides the grocery. They appreciate the market rivalary, stimulating for better results of work and salary. The management staffs of the Consumer Co-op's Union with the press's collaboration have organized the competitions for the best shop in different cathegories. In 1998 the reward „The Shop of Year" win „Rondo" in cathegory of bigger ones, belonged to this co-op, provided by Mrs Danuta Kunicka. „Rondo" is a modern unit (shopping area 450 m2), using computers in everyday work. It signalizes also low prices9.

Much more than individual success of woman providing the primary co-op means the management of whole countrywide net of trade agencias, working for consumer co-ops. Mrs Urszula Nagraba was elected in January 1997 as a chairmen of the board directors in the National Trade Agency „Spolem"10.

This agency was established as a limited liability company by regional agencias (also limited liability companies) associated consumer co-ops „Spolem". The general idea was to integrate primary co-ops in common economical activity, especially in wholesale trade. It was the very important challenge of market rivalary with private trade. In 1990 co-ops lost their wholesales and magazines provided as a property of former co-ops' unions. In the new situation (spontaneous growth of private trade enterprises and expansion of rich, strong foreign trade companies) it was urgent neccesary to looking for the cheap sources of co-ops' supply in attractive goods, buying its just from producers or importers.

The National Trade Agency „Spolem" managed by the board of directors with Mrs Urszula Nagraba as a chief, has grown up very quickly. Once a month the directors (representing regional agencias) have met and co-ordinated common strategy of shoping. There are the division of arae's interests. The national agency has bought goods produced in scope of a country, but the regional agencias - goods produced in smaller scale. For example: The National Agency has bought goods from big producers with well-known trade marks, potentates on the countrywide market and also has brought imported goods as wine, coffee. It has negotiated lower prices and confectioned package with the common trade mark „Spolem".

During the first half of an year of its activity the NTA gained a big success on a market. It arranged with collaboration of private businessmen from Katowice district the supply of coffee with trade mark „Spolem", which was 1/3 cheaper than Jacobs' coffee, but not worse! Mrs chairman had her own part in this success. The plans for future are growing with success: The Management Board of the NTA thinks about increasing common capitals by selling member's shares in this company and special founds for helping co-ops in bad financial situation, rescuing them from bancrupty. They intend also about common investment in big wholesale's centres, 2-4 in each regional agency. They have the same developing strategy: to sell the co-operative's production goods in co-ops and try to export its on East to former Soviet Union countries.The National Agency works as a good example of co-operative integration and supporting themselves according to co-operative principles and values. The NTA"Spolem" is not a co-op, it makes its activity as a limlted liability company, becouse this law formula gives more wide and flexible opportunities in business than actual co-operative law.

Peasant's self-help co-ops have very similiar problems of adaptation to market economy like consumer co-ops. They both experienced the waves of division and privatisation. They try to persit and even to develope in rivalary with nets of foreign trade's companies. Women's determination sometimes decided about co-ops' existence and condition. They fought with great consecration for their co-op, jobs and a base of existence their families. Unemployment is especially grivous problem in rural areas. At first it touchs women and for them to find a new job is almost impossible. It remains only to rescue the present place of work or try to begin private economic activity.

Women conduct with success the peasant's self-help co-op in Wolomin (Warsaw district), estabished in 1948 by men. To-day it is, without exaggeration, a feminine co-op11. It associated 87 members and employed 45 persons, in majority -women. Mrs Zofia Bialek is the chairman of management board. Women work also here in management board, control council, as book-keepers and shop-managers. They identify very stron with their co-op, perceived as own common enterprise.They direct common business very carefuly and considerating. In 90ties they achieved the inspection of co-op's property and eliminated not used buildings and magasines, sending or renting them. Well managed co-op works without depts, bringing profits. It renders possible even the new investments such as shops' and buildings' renovations or gas-lines to modernizated shops. New market's conditions constrains more enterprising from shop-managers. Women, directing these co-op's units, ordered only attractive and inquired goods, which will be sell very quickly. Wolomin co-op's shops win the market rivalary selling goods better quality and cheaper than in private shops. Women laern here lessons of entrepreneurship in everyday practice.

Similiar expiriences in adaptation to the market economy has the Agricultural-Comercial Co-op in Tarczyn, near Warsaw, established in 194512. It is also a „feminine" one. Among 34 employes - 31 are women, including management board and directors of units. During over 40 years its activity, the co-op reach a strong position in the town and envirions. At the end of 80ties it had conduct 27 shops and purchasing centres. Co-op had employed about 200 persons, in majority peasant's wifes and daughters living nearly. The co-op's economy was enough good and strong, so it didn't use bank's credits. It had enjoyed of social confiance.

In the new situation of 90ties, the new management board with Mrs Danuta Dziembowska as a chairman, decided to liquidate non profitable activity like purchasing centres and seriously limited sphere of business, especially services. They also sold or rent buildings not enough advantageous. In consequence it was neccessary to reduce employment in administration of co-op,. To-day co-op, significant reduced, creates profits, giving possibility of investments, renovation of shops and buildings. After a few miserable years, co-op begin to pay a dividend for members. Mrs chairman underlines, that this common success would be impossible without strong discipline, integration and self-denial of feminine staff. Women, working in this co-op, in majority are country-women, cultivating the pieces of land and these profits helped them to survive difficult time of transformation their co-op.

The modernisation net of co-op's shops is indispensable but expensive answer for challenge of free market. The management board of the peasants' self-help co-op in Halinów (Warsaw district) well understood it very quickly13. The chairman Mrs Elzbieta Wasowska and vice-chairman Mrs Anna Tkach (also the chief of chief of book-keepers) organized the big self-service shop in the center of this small town. The co-ops' supermarket became be popular and gave higher profits, so necessary for co-op, overloaded of big obligations for banks and the State Treasury. Women are getting on well with business in bigger scale like shows also an example from the peasants' self-help co-op in Sochaczew (Warsaw district)14. Mrs Grazyna Krzywinska, director of co-ops' supermarket „Merkury" won in 1998 the first prize in the competition for the best commercial or service's unit in this town. The chairman of Control Council here is also woman - Mrs Krystyna Sluz. She has worked in Sochaczew's co-op since 1987 and has taken serious part in solving problems of adaptation her co-op to the new market's conditions.

Another way for developing co-op is to undertake as the first a new attractive activity. Mrs Czeslawa Kurasz is not only the chairman of the village peasants' self-help co-op in Bukowsko (Krosno district) but also the pioneer of agrotouristic in this envirions and leader of local community15. She has been a chairman in this co-op since 18 years (earlier working as book-keeper). Her co-op is one of the best in this region and collaborates closely with the Foundation for Rural Co-operatives as one among its flag's ships. She took part in training for co-operators organized in Germany, France and Denmark, looking everywhere for commercial news. Every year she also visits her adult children in Canada. From these journeys Mrs chairman brought to her co-op such technical news like baking french freeze cakes, broad with linseed, crescents rolls with differnt stuff, which were the best-sellers! In May 1997 she established the Tourist Association „Bukowianka" jointed very closely with co-op. The new organisation promotes the touristical value of this picturesque village (2,5 thousands habitans), laying on the way to Bieszczady Mountains. Co-operative's folkloristic inn is a special attraction here. Thanking Mrs chairman, Bukowsko was discovered as a nice and cheap place for holidays, bringing supplementary profits for its inhabitans and co-op. Economic success of well managed co-op integrates this local community around it and Mrs Kurasz. She manages as well in co-op as in touristic business, opening the new perspectives for others villages.

Different workers' labour co-operatives had been developed in towns and countryside during the time of Polish Poeple's Republic and they had taken advantage of gouvernment's support. Women, working in all types of labour co-ops (314140), consistuted 15,7% of all employed in Polish co-operatives in 1988 and even 28,6% in group of all women employed there16. Sewing and clothing co-ops were the most popular among them. In 90ties these co-ops have met big competitions and they have contened very strong for presence on the free market. Polish market of clothing has become difficult. There have been very big export of new clothes from all the world and also export of attractive, used dress solding in  the second-hand shops. Costs of production have been still high in Poland and many foreign enterprises prefere to collaborate with partners from former Soviet Union's countries, becouse of cheaper costs of labour. In this situation many co-ops were liquidated or very close to bankruptcy. They try to keep contacts and exchange informations during special meetings organised for the same branches of co-ops by the Co-operative Corporation „Unity of Labour"17.

The Clothing Labour Co-op „Proficiency" in Kraków is a good exception on this background. It was the first enterprise in Poland making clother from original jeans. In 90ties it has experienced the lack of orders for their goods from Polish customers. It was neccessary to looking for another possibilities to send their production abroad. This womanish co-op, provided by chairman Mrs Zofia Cholocinska and Mrs Maria Francuz as vice-chairman for matters concerning with marketing and export, have developed wide collaboration with enterprises from Holland and Germany from 1990. International collaboration rescued the co-op and made it possible the modernisation, mainly the purchase of new machines. The co-op buys new machines in Holland paying for them its production. The „Proficiency" is well managed, it kept own building for production, but liquidated non profitable services in own repairing shops18.

Among different branches of workers' labour co-ops (mainly knitting, hairdresser's laundering, chemical, furniture's, transport's and leather's) we can observe the good examples of business women co-operators, managing with success in the co-ops like in „Plastyk" in Elblag (Mrs Danuta Borowska), „Asko" in Kalczyce near Jaslo (Mrs Stanislawa Krygowska and Mrs Janina Adamik), „Ingos" in Warsaw (Mrs Barbara Sidorowicz and Mrs Zofia Wielgo), „Izis" in Warsaw (Mrs Czeslawa Bakalarska),"Ogniwo" in Lódz (Mrs Marianna Garczynska), „Carriage" in Wadowice (Mrs Józefa Mika and Mrs Wanda Ksiazek)   and leather's co-op in Plock ( Mrs Lucyna Ryzywska). They are well getting on the free market and they already are capable to cope a strong rivalary19. Very similiar co-ops of disabled persons experienced also  the deterioration of condition of its activity. Particulary the high costs of production impede their existence20.

Artisans's and handicraftsmen's co-ops had another problems of adaptation to the new situation in market economy.  We can follow its on the example of the co-op „Popular Art" in Bialystok in north-east part of Poland21. This region has very strong and alive tradition of popular crafts and art. It's even called „fields of staw" and this material was very popular as a raw produce of many folkloristic objects as toys, shoes, baskets and occasional decorations. The wool (double-web) carpets also were a tipical crafts product of this region. The co-op „Popular Art", established in 1962, associated craftsmen and purchased hand-made goods (as lace, toys, pottery and decorative papers cut-out adorming walls of rural cottages) from supplyers, among them was a big  group of women from villages and nearly towns. This work give them supplamentary salary, so necessary in poor peasants or workers families. Goods from Bialystok district were sold in the city and in countywide net of „Cepelia" shops. Craftsmen and producers took part in many folkloristic festivals in Poland and abroad presenting popular art sill alives. The possibility of selling this various production bringing salary, keeps it alive and arouses the interest of young generation to continue the old crafts.

During the time of economical transformation the demend for this production grew smaller. The free market offered big variety of souvenirs from all world around. The strong competition and impoverishing of Polish society decreased the circle of buyers these goods. The co-op „Popular Art" like many others craftsmen's co-ops fell into financial troubles multiplicated by the valorisation of members's shares and dismissions for persons losting their jobs and pensionaries. Doubts grew up very quickly, so danger that concerning duties for the State Treasury. The general situation of co-op was going worse and worse towards bancruptcy. The management board was changed at the last minute in October 1996.

Mrs Krystyna Danilczuk was elected as a new chairman of management body in the „Popular Art". She tryed to rescue collapsing co-op with assistance the chairman of Control Council Mr Zbigniew Matusewicz, longevity and very experienced co-op's member, which have provided the family pottery's workshop established in 1928. The new management body at first sold two empty magazine bulidings for covering the most urgent payments. The next step - it was the art of negotiations, very difficult and longlasting. Mrs chairman had negotiated with the State Treasury and the Social Insurance Institution's regional officies for division and prorogation big depts. She win and co-op began to revive. Within one year (1997) co-ops has paid by instalments over 1 mld zlp (thousand millions old Polish zlotys - approximately 30.000 USD). In 1998 co-op „Popular Art" has worked for net profit as an enterprise in good economical condition. The management board has realized very carefuly strategy of purchase and exchange goods for its shop. The countrywide network of „Cepelia" shops facilitates an exchange of attractive products from different regions. The managers buy only very attractive merchandises, which will be sold quickly. The co-op's etnographer Mrs Danuta Góral has taken care about artistic values of its activity for many years. Philosophy of doing was simply - co-op should existe for its members, popular artists and craftsmen, also for national culture, keeping alive the heritage of old production and folklore. It is the main goal and mission, realized with great consecration and minimal salaries. The new management board with self-sacrificing staff rescued their co-op as only one from this branch in the region!

The same philosophy of doing we can observe in other co-op this branch named „Kurpianka" in Kadzidlo (Ostroleka disrict), provided by the womanish management board with Mrs Teresa Krawczyk as a chairman and Mrs Stanislawa Sakowska as a vice-chairman. Much decreased the co-op also has overcome big debts  and celebrated its 50-anniversary last year22.
Banking co-ops have employed many women as clerks, but they have taken higher, managing positions rather seldom. We haven't particulary statistical data concerning problems of womanish employment in this branch - before 1990 and to-day.

The economical transformation of early 90ties had brought many coops' banks to insolvency going to the bankruptcy. About 700 co-ops's banks collapsed or were reorganized, jointed into common strong units. The general salvage of this co-operative branch was the result of agreement between the goverment, the National Bank of Poland (provided by Mrs Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz) and the Bank of Food Economy associated over 1200 co-ops' banks. It wasn't special area for individual decission and success of managing boards in primary co-operative banks. Women on higher, managing positions in co-ops' banks take part in professional trainings very frequently, learning the modern patterns of bankng activity.We can see many women working in management boards or councils of control, not only on the level of primary co-ops. Mrs Grazna Szajna, member of management board in the Bank of Union Economic, associated over 100 co-ops' banks, is acting as the president of this bank23. In June 1998 successful women were elected to the entire of the board of directors of Bank „Spolem", associated about 130 consumer co-ops: Mrs Gabriela Grybos and Mrs Franciszka Cegielska, working as the chairmen in the Municipal Bank in Gdynia. Also the chiefs of regional agencias in this bank are women: Mrs Wieslawa Galkowska in Lódz and Mrs Bogumila Samborka in Kraków24. The top professional position in this co-operative branch gained Mrs Eugenia Tymieniecka, elected during the democratic election in 1997 as the chairman of management board in the Revisory Union of Co-ops Banks of Polish Republic25.

The successful co-ops managed by women worked on base on their own forces: co-ops' property, human resources and capitals. In 90ties the price of loans was very high because of longlasting high inflation. It was a big risk to take a credit for not much profitable co-op. Many co-ops were not able to pay interest's rates and felt in debts going to bankruptcy. The foreign assistance programs for developing small business were addressed to private enterprises or persons.

A successful example of microenterprise lending in central and eastern Europe is the Women in Rural Enterprise Development Programme (WREDP), started in 1991 under the Foundation for the Development of Polsh Agriculture26. The WREDP, which was modeled after the Women's World Banking prototype that funnels credit to women outside normal banking channels, set up a revolving micro-land fund to aid women who wanted to become enterprenrurs in rural Poland. It was funded with 1 million USD from the United States and German governments. The Polish WREDP makes about 100 loans a year to rural women, averaging 3,000 USD each, with interest payments between 28 to 38 %. The WREDP also provides business courses to more than 600 women each year. The courses help them learn financial spread sheets and other basic business skills. About 20 % of the women, who have taken the business courses have obtain loans from banks or started their own business without using WREDP's money.

A good example of success with help of the WREDP is Mrs Maria Szymanska. She borrowed 1250 USD from the micro-loan fund to open her community's first fast-food cafe in September 1994. The enterprises was such a success among the local residents that she was able to replay the loan in six month. Many other entrepreneurs have borrowed money from the WREDP micro loan funds so start bed and breakfast establishments, feed geese, package vegetables, rent out farm machinery and distribute animal feed.

The success of programmes like WRPDP and the need for additional small business lenders has led to the creation of several new programmes. In 1994 the Polish-American Enterprise Fund (PAEF) created a 22 million USD Fundusz Mikro. After a rockly start, the Funds has been screening loan applications from Polish-American business clubs in Warsaw region. In January 1995 the PAEF board agreed to spend this year testing five small-loan approches that have worked well elswhere. Based on the experience the successful approaches have been expanded across Poland in the next years. The experiments included co-financing with a credit union and modernized co-ops. The fifth operation, which had operated in Kraków, had maked loans to individuals with cosigners from their community. In practice these projects were addressed to private persons, not for co-ops or trade unions's enterprises.

In spite of previous declaration, co-ops didn't take part in mentioned above foreign programmes of developing rural microenterprises. The regard on privatisation of national economy caused that co-op were not supported forms of enterprises, persisted on their own forces in market rivalary. Right-oriented governments considered that co-ops should to prove their efficiency themselves in the new situation.

Women in Polish co-operative movement are not so big and remarkable group as before 1990, but we can observe good examples of ladies working as chairmen or members of managing and control boards in different kinds of co-ops, mainly consumer, peasants' self-help, banking, labour, artisans and craftsmen. After 8 years of political and economical transformation it isn't difficult to multiplicate similiar good examples from primary and higher level co-operatiove organisations. We can observe the new type of working woman in private or co-operative enterprises - „a business woman", very active, smart, dynamic, fighting in difficult and sometimes danger area of business. The gender is not a strong barriera, it's rather sometimes lack of professional economic knowledge and confidence  for themselves, which appearanced more frequently among women. Co-ops provided by women make success on market, win in strong rivalary. In spite of own personal values, women working in co-ops's management and control bodies have possibility to take part in the different trainings organizes in country and abroad, showing them the modern patterns of economical activity in market economy.

Sometimes these women gain a success not only in local or country scale, but also in international like Mrs Hanna Wróblewska, the chairman of the Housing Co-op in Nasielsk (Warsaw district)27. In September 1997 she was elected to the Executive Committee of ICA Global Women's Committee. Beside her Poland is represented here by Mrs Teresa Dzius from dairy co-op in Chelm and Mrs Maria Garczynska from labour co-op in Lódz. These women co-operators are also members of the National Co-operative Council in Poland28. Before the election among others candidates, Mrs Hanna Wróblewska called attention on the project of developing medical care and control against a cancer, addressed to women. She wants to realize this project in her co-op. The housing co-op in Nasielsk is not big one, it has 21 buildings and 658 inhabitans. Until 1995 this co-op had provided interesting social activity for young and older genarations in own club with tv, video, newspapers, computers's games, lessons of dances, cercles of chess and brigde players. Economical reasons forced to close the club.

Unemployment, lack of work and impoverishing of society are the main problems of this small town. Costs of reviving this kind social activity for co-op's members and inhabitans are too high for them now. Projects of profilactic medical examination against cancer are popular and realized in high developed counties. In Polish reality national public health-service try to arrange these examinationes at first in Warsaw and in the big cities, but the way to the specialistic medical centres for women from small towns and villages in countryside is too long and complicate. Very often they detect a cancer too late. Mentioned above project of these examinations, would be realized with assistance the net of  housing and other co-ops employed many women, may fill up very grievous gap in accessibilty to public medical services, especially in countryside. It may be a base for future developing social services in Polish co-ops, so popular in many countries. Women - co-operators engaged in works of the National Co-operative Council, tried to polish up suppositions and details of this project.

The open mind, good educated and trained women have provided their co-ops not worse that men, sometimes even better. They also take place in the higest national level co-operative organisations, but not enough meaningful. There are only 13 women in the National Co-operative Council, elected in May 199529. It means 13,2% of all members of this superior representative body of Polish co-operative movement.

The secretary of the General Assembly NCC Mrs Teresa Dzius represents dairy co-ops. The most large is womanish representation of labour and services's co-ops - 3 persons. Representation of 2 persons have other branches like consumer, housing, artisans and handicraftsmen „Cepelia". Only 1 representative in the NCC have peasant's self-help, agricultural productive, dairy and banking co-ops. Women are not represented in this organisation from horticultural, aparist's, disabled and blind's and craftsmen's co-ops. It shows that women in Polish contemporary co-operative movement haven't not enough strong representantion. In spite of their professional and economical success and tradition of co-operative work, their leadership position is still rather low in generally. This problem is not only co-operative, it is typical for our political life. The gender balance doesn't existe on higher levels of politic and economic organisations. The division of labour in society still push down overloaded women to lower works and position far from making decisions. The men's domination has strong tradition. The right oriented political forces have seen woman at first at home as mother of children. The ecomonic neccesity demands them the struggle for higher professional and economical position and social security for women and their families. Co-ops can play an important role in this area to-day and in future. For overcoming these traditional barrieras it is neccessary to rouse up feminine movement again. Women in the NCC created Women Co-operators Commission for exchanging their konwledge and experiences.

1 Z. Chyra-Rolicz, Zwiazki ruchu emancypacji kobiet ze spóldzielczoscia na ziemiach polskich przed 1939 r. SIB, Warsaw 1993.
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