Cooperatives make their voice heard at the Commission on the Status of Women

01 Apr 2019

Representatives from the International Cooperative Alliance Gender Equality Committee (GEC) took active part in the different plenary sessions and side events during the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The sixty-third session of the CSW took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 11 to 22 March 2019. Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations were in attendance. The priority theme for 2019 edition was “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”.

The GEC delegation was composed by Maria Eugenia Pérez Zea, chair of the ICA GEC and Nandini Azad, chair of the ICA Asia - Pacific GEC. The secretary of the GEC, Leire Luengo supported the delegation.

Ms Pérez Zea led the voice of women cooperators throughout a rich diversity of sessions facing themes like gender violence, gender gap, domestic workers, microinsurance, etc. while raising the voice on how cooperatives empower women. She also supported and reinforced the position of cooperators that were at the panel of divers’ sessions.

The chair of the Gender Equality Committee shared the engagement of the cooperatives movement towards decent work and against harassment mentioning the ICA declaration during a session where the ILO presented its roadmap for gender equality. Representatives from ITUC, UN women and also from the governments of Uruguay, Canada and Belgium were at the panel and heard the GEC intervention.

Ms Pérez Zea took the floor highlighting how “fighting gender-based violence is not only the role of governments and the family. Enterprises should also help to tackle it. Cooperatives are a very good tool that based on cooperatives values and principles can guarantee that women rights are respected”. See the video here

The ICA facilitated the participation of Weeffect representatives in the CSW63 and also strengthened the collaboration with them. Two side events were organised by Weeffect; both were supported and had the participation of the GEC chair and secretary. One of the sessions was on 'How Microinsurance can protect people against risk?' and the example of mutuals' and cooperatives' microinsurance was given by ICMIF and CIC Insurance from Kenya. The session also witnessed testimonies from women cooperators in Bolivia with their core message being that, “It’s time to care! Providing solutions to achieve gender equality." 

Ms. Eugenia Pérez Zea also took part in the session where the ILO report ‘A Quantum leap for gender equality’, the Road map for gender equality and decent work was launched. It was stated that “Women’s voices and representation is vital to establish a positive future in the world of work” and the cooperative way forward was shared with the audience.

WIEGO and UN Women organised an event in the UN headquarters where a representative from SEWA was part of the panel explaining how in the 1970's SEWA built its innovative approach to tackle issues related to poverty, especially for women.

Nandini Azad, Chairperson, ICA-AP Committee on Women represented ICA-AP as part of the ICA Delegation from March 9-15, 2019.  Dr. Azad made an intervention to the UN Secretary General (SG), António Guterres, during a Town Hall meeting between the SG and civil society organizations (CSOs). Dr. Azad introduced the Working Women’s Forum and the Indian Cooperative Network for Women in South India and highlighted the work being undertaken to reduce the incidence of gender-based violence cases as well as provision of loans to members of cooperatives. 

Dr. Azad further informed the SG about how cooperatives have proved their sustainability, especially, at a time when several other forms of CSOs are struggling due to lack of funds. The SG responded by saying, “Cooperatives are excellent mechanisms for organizing low income communities for economic and social resources but also are a strong political force for transformation.” Dr. Azad also made a presentation as part of the official Indian panel on the topic of ‘Khadi– the organic weave’, with the parameters of organising women weavers into cooperatives as envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi. The full presentation can be accessed here.