Contribution of Co-ops to Platform for Action: Health

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

              FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN : 
         ACTION FOR EQUALITY, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE 
            BEIJING, CHINA, 4 - 15 SEPTEMBER 1995

       *****************************************************
        THE CONTRIBUTION OF CO-OPERATIVE BUSINESS ENTERPRISE
            AND THE INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT
           TO ACHIEVEMENT OF THE STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES OF
                  THE DRAFT PLATFORM OF ACTION *
       *****************************************************

                      New York, March 1995


PREPARED JOINTLY, PURSUANT TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION 49/155,
       BY THE INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE ALLIANCE AND 
    THE UNITED NATIONS DEPARTMENT FOR POLICY COORDINATION 
                AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

     * For information purposes only. Not an official document 
       of the United Nations and not officially edited.


I.   CONTRIBUTIONS OF CO-OPERATIVES TO THE STRATEGIC 
       OBJECTIVES OF THE DRAFT PLATFORM OF ACTION
-----------------------------------------------------

C.     INEQUALITIES IN HEALTH STATUS AND UNEQUAL 
     ACCESS TO AND INDADEQUATE HEALTH CARE SERVICES
---------------------------------------------------
In an increasing number of countries numerous individual citizens
have established health care co-operatives in order to better
ensure their access to affordable, appropriate and high quality
health services. Women members (who are user-owners) of these co-
operatives have been able to ensure that the services they
provide are specific to their needs. Many consumer co-operatives,
of which women usually constitute a very high proportion of both
members and employees, give considerable attention to health-care
specific to women's needs. For example, in Japan the well
developed consumer co-operative movement of which the Japanese
Consumer Co-operative Union is the national representative and
service organization, has developed its own co-operative health
care system which, together with a health care system organized
by the agricultural co-operative movement to which 95 per cent
of Japanese rural households belong, provides a considerable
proportion of health services in rural areas. Members of the
consumer co-operative movement are primarily women, who have lead
a national movement for effective health care within the context
of healthy living. The Seikatsu Club Consumers' Co-operative, 90
per cent of whose membership of 170,000 persons are women, has
pioneered ecologically responsible life styles and a healthy
life-style, including control over the quality as well as price
of food. When the co-operative cannot find products that meet its
quality standards it has begun its own production and processing
business, for example in production of organic milk products in
collaboration with local dairy co-operatives.

Co-operative insurance enterprises have taken considerable
interest in measures whereby women may take action to improve
their own health. For example, the Swedish Folksam Group provides
advice on health to its women policy-owners - who are its members
and owners - and in 1994 was the principal sponsor of a major
conference on "Women's health and futures" held in Stockholm. In
developing regions also women co-operators have used income from
their co-operative enterprises to provide and improve health
services. This has been a significant development in West Africa.
In Cape Verde, Mali and Senegal community health centres and co-
operative clinics have been established in both rural and urban
areas. In many countries women's and mixed co-operatives have
applied surplus earnings to the opening of pharmacies,
transportation to hospitals, and inclusion of nutrition, child
care and hygiene components in their training programmes.

Co-operatives have shown a particular interest in occupational
health issues, including those relevant to their women members
and employees.

The co-operative movement has taken the lead in the environmental
movement in many countries, in respect both to ecologically
rational production and environmentally friendly consumption.
Women members of consumer co-operatives have exercised a major
influence upon the adjustment of business policies, stimulating
insistence upon environmentally friendly products, operations,
waste control, and consumer education. They have used their
membership in such co-operatives as a base for lobbying for
sustainable development.

Co-operative organizations of the supply of utilities, including
water and sanitation, electricity and housing, and numerous forms
of community development co-operatives, have helped to establish
a healthier local environment which has had a marked impact on
the health of women and men.

By means of literacy and education programmes, women have been
given access to information relevant to their health, and that
of their children. Many co-operatives include within the services
provided to women members and employees information on nutrition,
health, family planning, child-care and intra-family relations.

Many co-operatives make available flexible working conditions
which allow women members and employees opportunities to reduce
the health risks, including fatigue and stress, attached to their
dual responsibilities. These, as well as specialized service co-
operatives, provide care for infants and children, the infirm,
elderly, and persons with disabilities, reducing the pressure
upon women who are generally responsible for providing these
services.