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. ************************************************************** AS WRITTEN FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN 4-15 September 1995 Beijing, China Statement to the Fourth World Conference on Women Document Submitted By: INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE ALLIANCE 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 self-esteem. * 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 millennium. We look forward to working with the UN agencies, Governments, and NGOs to reach these objectives and the objectives of the Platform for Action.