ICA Report: Regional PrepCom - Asia/Pacific

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


            International Co-operative Alliance

  -------------------------------------------------------------
  THE CONTRIBUTION OF CO-OPERATIVES TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN
              IN THE ASIA AND PACIFIC REGION

    Statement to the ESCAP Second Asia and Pacific Ministerial 
             Conference on Women in Development
                7-11 June 1994, Jakarata
  -------------------------------------------------------------

We would like to congratulate the UN ESCAP for holding the Second
Asia and Pacific Ministerial Conference on Women in Development
in preparation for the Fourth World Conference on Women in
Beijing in 1995.  We would also like to thank the Secretariat for
preparing the Draft Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women
in Asia and the Pacific and recognizing that co-operatives can
assist in improving the economic and social situation of women
in the region.  

The ICA is an independent, nongovernmental association which
unites, represents and serves co-operatives worldwide. 
Established in 1895, the ICA has over 225 member organizations
from 101 countries representing more than 725 million members.
The Asia-Pacific region covers 26 countries and has over 63
member organizations, with over 450 million individuals.  ICA has
collaborated with the UN system since 1946 and enjoys category
I consultative status with ECOSOC.

Co-operatives are business enterprises owned by their members. 
They are operated by means of their democratically organized
participation for the purpose of providing members with benefits
as either producers or consumers or both, which they themselves
have identified.  Co-operatives can be found in all sectors of
economic activity - agriculture, industry, the consumer sector,
energy, etc.  Some can therefore be considered workers'
organizations as well as farmer's associations.  

The ICA would like to highlight the contribution that co-
operatives have made to the advancement of women as well as the
activities being undertaken at the regional level to enhance the
contribution of co-operatives to the improvement of the quality
of life of women.  We hope that the delegations represented here
will acknowledge the present and potential role of co-operatives
in the advancement of women and recommend support to co-
operatives as self-help structures necessary to the effective
participation of women in their own development.  

There are numerous examples of how co-operatives have provided
women access to income-generating activities which in turn have
contributed to their economic and social development.  The Self-
Employed Women's Association (SEWA) in Gujarat, India, has
organised women's co-operatives in artisanal, land-based,
livestock, trading and service sectors. These co-operatives are
providing opportunities to unemployed women to obtain sustainable
work and income.  However, there are also examples of efforts
undertaken by co-operatives to achieve equality, access to
education, the respect of women's human rights and peace in terms
of racial, religious, and cultural tolerance.  For example, in
India, co-operatives have provided women the possibility of
coming together outside of their households, exchanging views and
going to markets etc.  Co-operative activities in addition to
providing  women an income of their own, have diminished the
incidence of violence against women within the family by the fact
that women are contributing this income to the family economy. 
Thrift and credit co-operatives have provided women a network of
solidarity for protecting women against violence within the
family.  The same co-operatives have also contributed to the
community by financing libraries for children and community
centres, organizing recreational activities such as excursions
for women.  

Women only co-operatives have made a difference in the lives of
women in all these areas, but mixed co-operatives have also made
substantial contributions.  It is for this reason that we bring
to the attention of the distinguished delegates the actions to
be taken in the Draft Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women
in Asia and the Pacific (E/ESCAP/RUD/SOCWD/5) which addresses the
informal sector.

Paragraph (ii) on page 20 recommends that women's co-operatives
should be encouraged.  The ICA, based on its co-operative
development experience, would suggest that para (ii) be rephrased
to read "encourage women's co-operatives, where appropriate, and
encourage the integration of women in mixed co-operatives for
marketing and input procurement needs by promoting awareness, and
catering for training needs and networking".

This suggested change to the text is based on The ICA Policy on
Women in Co-operative Development which was approved in September
1993.  The Policy clearly states that the ICA will promote
women's role within the co-operative movement and co-operative
projects and will determine the advantages and disadvantages of
women only versus mixed co-operatives on a case-by-case basis and
in relation to the legal, economic, and social situation of
women.  The ICA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific recently
published 14 country studies on women's involvement in co-
operatives.  These indicate that there are cases where the
formation of co-operatives whose membership is women only has
tended to reinforce women's traditional or marginalized role and
thus has hindered the empowerment of women.  There are also cases
of mixed co-operatives which have opted to strengthen women's
participation, thus enhancing women's integration in the
development process. 

As regards para (iv) on page 20, we welcome this reference to co-
operatives and their contribution to social protection.

However, these are only two areas in which co-operatives have
been cited in the section for 'action to be taken'.  Women,
through the participation in co-operatives, have been able to
contribute to the economy of the household and improve their
social situation within their communities.  At grassroots levels,
women have reported that participation in co-operatives have
increased their self-esteem, assisted in earning the respect of
their spouses, provided a degree of independence, provided access
to education (functional literacy, health and nutrition, etc.)
and training and has helped them to develop their leadership
skills.  In addition, co-operatives through access to income-
generating activities and solidarity among members, have
contributed to reducing violence against women.  Participation
of women in co-operatives has sensitized women in the importance
of education and preventive health measures for their children.

Members of co-operative movements have mandated the ICA to
actively promote the effective participation of women in co-
operatives as only in this way will co-operatives make a
substantial contribution to the development of communities,
regions and nations through the empowerment of women.  The ICA
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific is implementing a gender
integration programme which focuses on gender-sensitization for
co-operators and policy-makers at the local, regional and
national levels, leadership training for women, and facilitating
women's access to credit.  It is assisting ICA member
organizations in the region which are presently drafting
strategies and plans for gender integration in co-operatives. 
Co-operatives can improve the qualitative and quantitative living
conditions of women.

Finally, we draw the attention of the distinguished delegates to
the fact that the United Nations is fully aware of both the wide
dimension of the global co-operative movement and the special
character of enterprises organized on the basis of co-operative
values and principles.  The contribution of co-operatives to the
achievement of individual goals of millions of person have been
noted by the  United Nations General Assembly and the Economic
and Social Council and has been documented in by the Secretary-
General in reports to these bodies (the most recent being the UN
Secretary-General's Report, Status and Role of Co-operatives in
the Light of New Economic and Social Trends (A/47/216).

The International Co-operative Alliance therefore, requests the
Second Asia and Pacific Ministerial Conference on Women in
Development to take into consideration the potential of the co-
operative movement to contribute to the advancement of women in
the region.  We request all governments to create environments
for autonomous co-operatives and thereby contribute to the
empowerment of women.

The ICA looks forward to collaborating with ESCAP and the entire
UN system in the implementation of the Plan of Action for the
Advancement of Women in Asia and the Pacific.


               For more information, please contact:
               International Co-operative Alliance
               15 Route des Morillons
               1218 Grand Saconnex, Geneva
               Switzerland
               Tel:      +41 22 929 88 88
               Fax:      +41 22 798 41 22
               E-mail:   icageneva@gn.apc.org