ICA Statement Delivered at the FWCW, Beijing, 7 Sept. 1995

Subject:  95-09-07: Statement by International Co-operative
          Alliance, Mrs. Raija Itkonen (ICA Board Member)

The electronic version of this document has been prepared at the
Fourth World Conference on Women by the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the United
Nations Fourth World Conference on Women Secretariat.

4-15 September 1995 Beijing, China

     Statement to the Fourth World Conference on Women

Co-operatives, as democratic, member-run and member-financed
self-help enterprises have a great potential contributing to the
improvement of the economic and social conditions of women
worldwide. In the words of the United Nations Secretary General:

Co-operative enterprises provide the organizational means whereby
a significant proportion of humanity is able to take into its own
hand the task of creating productive employment, overcoming
poverty and achieving social integration. They constitute a model
for a people-centered and sustainable form of societal
organization, based on equity, justice and solidarity. And they
involve in the development process all sections of society
including women...

Co-operatives have a key role to play as they are able to respond
to both women's practical and strategic needs - those critical
areas of concern noted in the Platform for Action - by providing
access to income-generating activities as worker-owners and
providing essential services which contribute to the advancement
of women such as health-care, child-care, consumer goods. By
virtue of this double capacity, women can have access to common
production resources (such as credit, lands marketing facilities,
infrastructure, tools, technology, etc.), which increase their
income as well as lighten their tasks. By forming themselves into
co-operatives they can also benefit from economies of scale and
improve their access to opening markets.

The Platform for Action recognizes the most important
contribution of co-operatives to the advancement of women - that
of increasing women's economic capacities through
income-generating opportunities. The Platform of Action notes
that co-operatives can assist women who live in poverty; they can
facilitate women's equal access to resources, employment, market
and trade; and they can strengthen women's economic capacity.

Co-operatives also contribute to the improvement of the economic,
social and cultural situation of women in other ways including
improving access to education and training, providing accessible
health care, combating violence against women, promoting
equality, changing institutional biases and improving women's

* Women in Asia and North America have reported that
co-operatives have played a role in reducing violence against
women. As respect of women is often related to economic
independence, 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.

* For example, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
which regroups over 200 member organizations from 101 countries
representing 765 million individuals 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.

A number of examples were provided in documents which were
circulated at the regional level preparatory meetings for the
Fourth World Conference on Women in Jakarta, Mar del Plata,
Vienna and Dakar.

Co-operatives are a tested model of organized collaboration which
provide avenues for both women and men in partnership to pool
human resources, converting individual potential into a
socioeconomic 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.

Co-operatives improve leadership skills of women members and can
provide opportunities for access to decision-making positions.

Over the last 100 years of its existence, the ICA has been
working with and through co-operatives to empower both women and
men in partnership. Indeed in its very first Congress in 1895,
the need to fully integrate women into the Co-operative Movement
in order to achieve economic and social advancement of all was
recognized. Co-operatives have made advances. They have served
communities and contributed very concretely to the advancement
of women in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. However, we
realize that much work lays ahead.

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
which regroups co-operative organizations worldwide is actively
working towards this aim - our common challenge into the next

We look forward to working with the UN agencies, Governments, and
NGOs to reach these objectives and the objectives of the Platform
for Action.