Engendering SAARC Cooperatives

The President, Indian Cooperative Network for Women (ICNW), Dr. Nandini Azad addressed the pioneer Vaikunth Mehta Institute of Cooperative Management, Pune on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2017 and highlighted the global recognition of gender equity as a key to the cooperative movement. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) state that gender equality is a fundamental right for a peaceful world towards growth and global poverty reduction. International Labor Organization (ILO) Recommendation no. 193 (7.3) cites, “Special consideration should be given to increasing women’s participation in the cooperative movement at all levels, particularly at management and leadership levels.” The Indian Parliament passed the crucial Constitution (111 Amendment) bill granting every Indian citizen the right to form a cooperative voluntarily as a human right insisting on autonomy and democracy.

Highlights of Asian Countries - Philippines is the first country to adopt a cooperative branding strategy, i.e., Finance Organizations Achieving Certified Credit Union Standards (FOCCUS) which focuses on poor rural women and their access to financial services. The iCOOP Korea has 73 primary cooperative committees consisting of 1,200 women in the field of food safety, environment, childcare, education and agricultural support across the country. The Japanese Consumer Cooperative policy is enacted in September 2015. Companies with or more than 301 employees are mandated to make an action plan to promote women. All-China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives’ women staff accounts for 40 percent. The leadership position and the directors are women too.

The Indian Cooperative Network for Women (ICNW) is a social movement of one million women across three southern states of India – Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh covering 3,840 villages and 2,426. It’s members are street vendors, pavement hawkers, handloom weavers, coir and handicraft workers, fisher women, daily wagers and micro entrepreneurs. The microfinance program of ICNW has, so far, reached out to over 500,000 entrepreneurs with approximately Rs. 3,000 million accomplishing about 99.26 percent recovery rate in the urban slums and rural areas.

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