Report of the ICA Global Women's Committee (1995/96)

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
                         October, 1996

     (Source: Review of International Co-operation,
     Vol.89, No.3/1996 (Annual Report 1995/96), p.82-85)

                       Report of the
                ICA Global Women's Committee

Executive Committee

Chairwoman:         Katarina Apelqvist (Sweden)

Vice-Chairwoman:    Bernadette Wanyonyi (Kenya)

Secretary:          Susan King (UK)

Members:     Natsuko Yuasa (Japan); Irene Drazewska
                    (Poland); Nargis Rashid (Pakistan); Galina
                    Kisseleva (Russia); Chieftainess Chiyaba

Since its Plenary Meeting in Manchester in September 1995, the
Women's Committee has been working within the framework of a
new name and a new constitution, which has now been formally
approved by the ICA Board.

Membership of the ICA Global Women's Committee is open to all
Member Organisations and there is no longer any restriction on
the number of women from any one organisation or country. 

We currently have 54 members from 34 organisations in 29
countries representing each of the ICA regions.

The new Constitution states that the Committee shall promote
the interests of women in every aspect of co-operative
activity, including co-operative development. 

This shall be done through, for example:

 *  Encouraging worldwide and regional discussions on issues
     relating to the equality between women and men;
     initiating positive actions and specific measures to
     achieve that equality; and encouraging women to actively
     participate in the policy-making and management of all

*   Initiating and, where possible, co-ordinating
     educational, training and research projects in
     co-operative organisations at national. regional and
     global levels, through appropriate means such as courses
     and seminars in collaboration with co-operative and other

*    And facilitating the establishment of Regional Women's
     Committees, and supporting and promoting them.

Polish Training Programme
The major success story of the year has, undoubtedly, been the
pilot training programme "Equal Opportunities within
Co-operatives; Confidence and Capacity Building of Women 
Co-operators in Eastern Europe". This project was set up with
a grant from the European Union through the PHARE Democracy
Programme. The Equal Opportunities Programme was initiated by
the ICA Women's Committee and facilitated through
collaboration with Co-op Network.

60 Polish Women Co-operators participated in the three-week
courses held in Germany and England, and on their return have
each trained a further 10-15 women in their own co-operatives.
The project has proved to be very successful and, funding
permitting, it is hoped to repeat the programme for other
women from Eastern and Central Europe in the future.

The next phase of the project is to establish a women's
network and a newsletter has subsequently been produced by
Co-op Network. It is hoped that its production will continue
under ICA Europe.

All too often the initiatives of the Global Women's Committee
have been thwarted by the lack of financial support. A seminar
on Women's Financial Security had to be postponed because we
were unable to secure adequate funding. We hope to pursue this
important theme in the future and are seeking to collaborate
with the ICA Federation of Insurers and the ICA Banking


Executive Meetings - Malaysia
In June this year we were delighted to accept an invitation to
hold the Executive Committee meeting in Malaysia and to
participate in the Regional Assembly for Asia and the Pacific.

The main reason for attending the Regional Assembly was to
lobby support for the proposal for a Regional Women's
Committee for Asia and Pacific. A working party has been set
up with the aim that a Regional Women's Committee will be
formerly approved by the next Regional Assembly in Bangladesh
in 1998.

Annual Global Meeting - Costa Rica
In November we will hold our Annual Global Meeting in
conjunction with the Regional Assembly for the Americas in
Costa Rica. The participation of the Women's Committee in a
Gender Forum preceding the main event is something we are very
much looking forward too. This forum will be the culmination
of a major campaign that is currently being carried out in
Central America in which women are asking, `How many are we?
What do we want?' 

We are also planning a Management Training Course at the
International Institute for the Histadrut in Israel. It will
be the first time that the Women's Committee has held a gender
integrated course.

The Chairwoman of the Committee has been working closely with
Raija Itkonen (member of the Committee and the ICA Board, and
Focal Point for Gender Issues in Europe) and Bruce Thordarson 
(ICA Director General), in order to make positive proposals to
the ICA Board which will help address the embarrassing and
harmful gender imbalance that currently exists in the Board
and Regional Assemblies. These proposals include defined
targets and a timetable for their achievement. This small
working group has also discussed the need for ICA Global and
Regional gender policies.

In September 1995, Raija Itkonen, the only woman on the ICA
Board, led the ICA delegation to the UN 4th World Conference
on Women in Beijing. She was able to present a Statement to
the Main Conference in which the International Co-operative
Alliance pledged the commitment of the whole Co-operative
Movement to the improvement of women's status.

At the Centennial Congress in Manchester a resolution was
passed calling for the highest priority to be given to Gender
Integration and for positive steps to be taken to ensure equal
participation of both women and men at all levels.

It is the fervent hope of this Committee that at last our
demands will be met and that these Resolutions will not, like
those in the past, be followed by so little positive action.
We are reassured by the fact that some Co-operatives have
already looked closely at the reasons why women are often
precluded from the decision-making progress. In Centrosoyus in
Russia and in JCCU in Japan positive action has been taken to
ensure that the gender balance at Board level is improving. 

To enable women to participate fully within the movement,
however, there needs to be a change in attitude. It is still
not fully recognised that the skills, values and experiences
of both women and men are essential not only to the
credibility, well-being and success of the movement as a
democratic organisation ( as defined in the Co-operative
Statement of Identity), but to its very survival.

For many women, the Global Women's Committee is a safe forum
in which they can practice the skills that they need in order
to develop self-confidence to participate in a male dominated
environment. Without such a facility, many women would not be
able to progress within their own Society let alone within the
wider Movement. 

We would like to think that the ICA Global Women's Committee
will be there for as long as it is needed!