ICA Statement to 39th CSW (March 1995)

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  This document has been made available in electronic format by
         the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
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               INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE ALLIANCE
           NGO with Consultative Status I with ECOSOC

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          COMMENTS TO THE DRAFT PLATFORM FOR ACTION OF
              THE FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN

            Statement distributed to Delegates of
                     the 39th Session of 
            the Commission on the Status for Women
                        March 1995
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The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is an NGO which
regroups 200 national and international co-operative
organizations in 100 countries representing 760 million
individuals.  

Co-operatives are democratic, member-run and member-financed
self-help enterprises which have a great potential of
contributing to the improvement of the economic and social
conditions of women worldwide.  This has been recognized by the
United Nations Secretary-General in his reports on the
co-operative movement, Status and Role of Co-operatives in the
Light of New Economic and Social Trends, the most recent issued
1 July 1994 (A/49/213) in which noted that, 

     "Women continued to find membership in cooperative
     enterprises a most effective means to achieve economic
     empowerment, to engage in entrepreneurial activities and in
     employment, and, of great importance, to retain the
     benefits thereof..."

The General Assembly in resolution 49/155 of 23 December 1994
also recognized that, 

     "...cooperatives in their various forms are becoming an
     indispensable factor in the economic and social development
     of all countries, promoting the fullest possible
     participation in the development process of all population
     groups ... including women..."
  
A number of documents issued for this session of the Commission
on the Status of Women also note the contribution of
co-operatives including the recommendations from the regional
preparatory conferences for Asia and the Pacific and Latin
America and the Caribbean as well as the Report of the Expert
Group Meeting on Women and Economic Decision-making annexed to
the document E/CN.6/1995/10.

The draft Platform for Action reflects the important contribution
of co-operatives to the economic well-being of women in Strategic
Objective F.4 'Strengthen women's economic capacity and
commercial network', paragraphs 122 and 123.   This is an
important recognition that the co-operative model can and does
empower women. 

However, co-operatives are empowering women by responding to both
their practical and strategic needs not only by providing access
to income-generating activities as worker-owners, but also by
providing essential services which contribute to the advancement
of women such as health-care, consumer goods including safe and
healthy food, and child-care.

As one of the basic principles of co-operatives is the provision
of education and training to its members, co-operatives in Asia,
Africa, the Americas and Europe are engaged in a variety of
education and training programmes including literacy programmes,
management training, technical training relating to production,
environment and gender awareness training.  Co-operatives are
also providing training to increase women's self-esteem and
leadership skills enabling them to access decision-making
positions. 

Co-operatives too, are combatting violence against women. Women
in Asia and North America have reported that co-operatives have
played a role in reducing violence against women.  Women who
participate in co-operatives are less likely to be victims of
violence since they are income earners. In addition,
co-operatives offer security and protection as they are based on
solidarity and support among their members.  

Finally, co-operatives have a role to play in changing
institutional biases, traditional and cultural practices and
attitudes that have frustrated women's efforts to participate in
the economy as more than just marginal actors.  The International
Co-operative Alliance (ICA) has been engaged in disseminating
information and material aimed at recognizing the important
contribution of women in development and the need to take
concrete measures in each co-operative to contribute to the
advancement of women.  What we have seen as a result of our
activities is that many of the ICA's members have also reprinted
and spread information appropriate to their regions on the
importance of women in society and the need to remove all
obstacles impeding their full and equal participation in all
spheres of public and private life. 

Co-operatives are a tested model of organized collaboration which
provide avenues for both women and men to pool human resources,
converting individual potential into a socio-economic force. They
are a form of organization which women can use to help
themselves. With their democratic structure, co-operatives offer
women as members and employees opportunities for participation
in and influence over economic activities. Women gain
self-reliance through this participation, as well as access to
opportunities which they would not have been able to obtain on
their own. 

Finally, co-operatives both individually and collectively through
national, regional and international co-operative organizations
have made a pledge to further the advancement of women. The ICA
is actively working towards this aim and is committed to
collaborating in the implementation of the Platform for Action.