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11th Asia and Pacific Regional Women’s Forum

ICA Congress

The 33rd ICA World Cooperative Congress in December 2021 with the theme, Deepening the Cooperative Identity, will celebrate and deepen understanding of the Statement on the Cooperative Identity (SCI) and the profound social and economic impact of cooperatives worldwide. The Congress will look at how the cooperative movement transforms societies and how the cooperative way of doing business creates an innovative pathway to a sustainable future.

ICA Statement on the Cooperative Identity and 2015 Guidance Notes

The SCI provides a common definition of cooperatives, a specific commitment to cooperative and ethical values, and clarity on the operational principles that differentiate us from other forms of businesses. The Cooperative Identity and values bring to life the day-to-day operations of a cooperative enterprise. The cooperative principles and values cumulatively are the life blood of the movement. They are the guidelines through which cooperators strive to operate and develop their cooperatives. While Cooperative Identity and values are immutable, the principles have been reviewed and reformulated.

The 2015 Guidance Notes to the cooperative principles provides the latest guidance on the application of the principles to the governance and operation of cooperatives. They are intended to be kept up-to-date over time and as societies change, environmental concerns evolve, and as commercial and financial regulations amend. They provide guidance to those who have the task of registering, regulating, or supervising cooperatives in the local, national, and regional economies of the world.

Cooperative Identity and women

The Cooperative Identity by which cooperatives put their principles and values to practice calls for open involvement and active participation of women. The first principle on ‘voluntary and open membership’, enables cooperatives to be open to all persons without gender discrimination. While the second principle on ‘democratic member control’, specifically mentions that women can serve as elected representatives in cooperatives.

However, in practice, the principles as outlined by the 2015 Guidance Notes are not fully observed. The examples cited in the Guidance Notes reflect gender unequal practices in cooperatives.

“Cultural norms such as women being required to cease to be members of a cooperative when they marry or being denied membership because men are heads of households are a clear breach of the first principle”.

“In consumer cooperatives, women often constitute a majority of members because of their traditional role in families while most executives and managers in many cooperatives are men. In producer cooperatives, women are often excluded from membership mainly due to lack of property rights, although a large part of farming work is borne by women”.

“Cooperatives should ensure that women participate equally in education and leadership development programmes”.
As a result of gender discrimination present in societies, “in some countries and cultures where women are still perceived as subservient to men, women may set up women’s cooperatives to overcome discrimination and gain a voice and a place for women that is not accessible to them because of religious or cultural gender discrimination. They operate credit and banking services, consumer shops, agriculture, handicrafts and small industries”.

Why does the Cooperative Identity matter to women?

The 11th Asia and Pacific Regional Women’s Forum will be held in conjunction with the 33rd ICA Congress on Deepening the Cooperative Identity. It will serve as a timely platform to discuss why the Cooperative Identity matters to women. The identity of women cooperators is embedded within a wide range of social, economic, cultural, political, and religious contexts, which shape and influence their identity and position in society. The Cooperative Identity rooted in principles and values offer women the opportunity to organise themselves to realise their common economic, social and cultural needs irrespective of their diverse backgrounds and contexts.

The forum will deliberate on how the Cooperative Identity positively impacts women cooperative members from diverse backgrounds; issues and challenges experienced by women in practising cooperative principles and values; and what can be done to further strengthen the positive impact.

The episodes of intra and inter-state conflicts and violence against women are increasing. The forum would encourage exchange of views between cooperators on the impact of conflict and violence on women and seek their recommendations for the inclusion of peace and non-violence in the Statement of Cooperative Identity.

The forum will focus on:

  1. Principle 1: voluntary and open membership
  2. Principle 2: democratic member control
  3. Principle 3: member economic participation (in the age of digitalisation)
  4. Principle 5: education, training and information
  5. Peace and non-violence as prospective values in the Cooperative Identity

The objectives of the forum are to:

  1. Share good case practices and exchange strategies for implementation of the Cooperative Identity that favour women
  2. Establish grounds for future activities and policy action to support women in leveraging the cooperative advantage
  3. Seek recommendations from women on peace and non-violence as prospective values in the Cooperative Identity

The 11th Asia and Pacific Regional Women’s Forum is scheduled to be held on Monday, November 29, 2021 at Grand Walkerhill , Seoul, South Korea and online via Zoom, from 9 am to 12 pm (Korea time). Click here to view the programme schedule.

For any further information and assistance, contact Ms. Simren Singh, Secretary, ICA-AP Committee on Women at
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