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A still of the audience listening to the proceedings of the Forum.

 

The 10th Women’s Forum took place on November 27, 2018 at the IRIB International Conference Centre, Tehran, Iran. The Forum was attended by 44 participants from six  countries, including members of various women’s co-operatives in Iran, ICA-AP members, and representatives from the government, academia, and international agencies. The Forum was supported by the Japanese Consumers’ Cooperative Union (JCCU) and Rah-e-Roshd Educational Complex; a pioneering co-operative working on school education, co-operative research and projects on women’s empowerment in Iran.

 

The Forum was organized to understand the situation of resilience in relation to women’s co-operatives, the issues, challenges and opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region. It provided a platform for the participants to share information, exchange ideas, learn about good practices in co-operatives. The Forum was also to formulate ways to assist in strengthening resilience of women in co-operatives.

 

The presentations made during the day-long Forum showcased examples from the Asia-Pacific region   to improve the resilience of women in co-operatives. The opening session highlighted work being carried out at the global, regional and national level to promote inclusion of women and resilience in co-operatives. Dr. Ariel Guarco in his message reiterated ICA’s commitment to mainstream gender in all areas of co-operatives and to encourage formation of Gender Committees or similar spaces within the co-operative movement. Speaking for the region, Mr. Balasubramanian Iyer said that the ICA-AP Committee on Women works on multiple fronts to strengthen resilience of women in co-operatives by mainstreaming gender, conducting trainings, organizing workshops on contemporary issues affecting women, and undertaking research.  Ms. Om Devi Malla said that co-operatives in Nepal are working to take advantage of the provisions in their Constitution to empower women’s participation in public life and increase representation in elected bodies.  Dr. Ali Rabie, speaking for Iran said that co-operatives, being democratic business models, are the ideal medium to reduce inequalities and provide dignified livelihood for women. Dr. Susan Bastani, called on governments to constructively support women’s co-operatives to enhance their resilience through allocation of funds and providing support for expansion of business and trade through favourable policies. 

 

The panel discussion on, Bolstering preparedness and safeguarding women’s interests, presented interesting examples from existing and emerging areas of interest for co-operatives.  Ms. Diana Dovgan, made the case for social co-operatives which provide critical services to the community and include flexible scheduling which helps women maintain work-life balance; a concern that prevents many women from joining the workforce. Dr. Sifa Chiyoge providing examples from Africa said that it’s been established that there is a strong link between participation of women in co-operatives and poverty reduction. For Dr. Arghavan Farzin Motamed, co-operatives are the key for economic resilience especially when we have multitude of problems; women can increase their social and economic resilience, especially in rural areas, through economic participation in co-operatives. Ms. Laleh Daraie, said that climate change affects women more adversely and called for support to projects that target women, children and young people and harmonizes relationships with their surroundings.  The presentations from China, Iran, Malaysia, Nepal and Vietnam showcased country level examples to boost resilience.

 

The group work session was aimed at understanding the main concerns of women in the Iranian co-operative movement and the steps that could be taken to remedy the situation. The  recommendations coming out included access to a platform where women could exchange   experiences with an international audience; advocate with government to support social co-operatives and build capacity; and ‘Coop Talks’ series for women to share their success stories and inspire each other.

 

To read the full-length Report from the Forum, please click here.