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Opening Ceremony (L-R) Dr. K.N. Sinha, Dr. Nandini Azad, Dr. Chandrapal Singh Yadav, Ms. Chitose Arai, Mr. Balasubramanian Iyer and Mr. N. Satyanarayana



The ICA-AP Committee on Women in collaboration with the National Cooperative Union of India (NCUI) and support from the Japanese Consumers’ Cooperative Union (JCCU) organized an International Workshop on “Enhancing Gender Equality in Cooperative Business” at NCUI in New Delhi, India from August 20 to 22, 2019.


The objectives of the workshop were to take stock of the status and conditions of women in cooperatives and identify actions to promote gender equality and end discrimination at the workplace. The workshop focused on two broad issues – promoting gender equality in the workplace by looking into issues around parity, opportunity, safety, and mobility; and improving data, especially relating to gender-disaggregated data. 16 international participants from Bhutan, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, and Sri Lanka from the Asia-Pacific region, and 29 women leaders and functionaries engaged in women empowerment activities in different states of India, participated in the workshop.


Dr. Nandini Azad, Chairperson, ICA-AP Committee on Women welcomed the participants and traced the history of the women committee and its role in gender mainstreaming and advocacy to increase representation of women in cooperatives. She said the Committee has consistently presented the concerns of gender imbalances and systemic discrimination against women at various levels of cooperatives and at important forums like the Asia Pacific Cooperative Ministers’ Conference (APCMC). The Hanoi Resolution adopted at the 10th APCMC in 2017, called on all participants to “encourage and support women members’ participation (30% to 50% representation) in committees, bodies, councils and other higher-level cooperative structures.” 


Dr. Chandrapal Singh Yadav, President NCUI and Vice-President ICA-AP in his address noted the developments in the quest for gender equality and women’s empowerment, from the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing to Sustainable Development Goal – 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls in the Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He called on the women representatives of the Asia Pacific region, to pursue with their National Governments the development of ‘National Policy for Cooperatives’ emphasizing the role of women in decision-making to achieve SDG 5. 


Ms. Chitose Arai, Vice Chairperson ICA-AP Committee on Women and Vice-President ICA-AP said that cooperatives have an important role in eliminating disparity and in driving social change. The key attitude needed is LOVE -Listen, Open, Voice and Enjoy! Aya Matsuura, Gender Specialist, ILO New Delhi spoke of the need to provide flexible work arrangement, parental leave (women and men), and safe and fair environment. She called on the need compulsory measures, else things don’t change!



(L-R) Ms. Cardona Flores, Ms. Vasudha Mishra, Ms. Anahita Eslahpazir and Ms. Suriyaaarachchi P Shanti.



Ms. Vasudha Mishra, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India who attended both days of the workshop explained how positive discrimination can raise the status of women in cooperatives as it can promote diversity, brings in new voices, and enrich society. She encouraged the participants, especially those from India, to make use of the opportunities made available by the government to include cooperatives in promoting farmer producer organizations, providing credit, and expanding the areas of cooperation.


The participants successfully deliberated on strengthening policy (affirmative action and better monitoring), redesigning rules to target individuals (women) rather than households in membership, mainstreaming gender in work policies (addressing safety and mobility) and targeting development programs. The workshop also dwelled into how apex federations can use gender-disaggregated data to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate to mainstream gender equality in cooperatives and expand member base and outreach.


The policy recommendations coming out of the workshop included: gender sensitization of board and leadership, dedicated gender policies in cooperatives, targets to increase number of women at decision making levels, creation of gender development committees, allocation of funds, annual reporting, provision of care facilities (like day-care for children), create home-based cooperatives for home makers, and gender-responsive value chains in cooperatives.




Group discussion on how more gender-responsive policies can be introduced in cooperatives.



On the last day of the workshop, the participants visited Southern Star Cooperative (Urban) Thrift and Credit Society in New Delhi. The cooperative society was registered in 1986 with 41 members. Today it has around 31,200 active members (47% women) and annual turnover of ₹1.5 million.