Survey shows rising women’s participation in co-operatives

Accra, March, 10, GNA – An online survey conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Co-operative Alliance shows 75 per cent of survey respondents felt that women’s participation in co-operatives had increased over the past 20 years.

The joint survey study, which was made available by the ILO to the Ghana News Agency on Monday, reflects gains for women in co-operatives while pointing to the need for better recognition by governments.

The findings come ahead of a panel and debate to be held on Tuesday, March 10, at the United Nations in New York, called; ‘Cooperatives: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment .’

The panel is being organised as a side event to the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which takes place from March 9 to 20.

Regarding the survey findings, the President of the International Co-operative Alliance, Dame Pauline Green said: ‘The Alliance and ILO joint survey highlights the unique effectiveness of the co-operative model in providing women with a dignified way of out of poverty, often away from violence and abuse.’

‘I am also thrilled with the survey’s indicators towards a high number of women in leadership positions, particularly in our finance and insurance co-operatives,’ she added.

Key findings indicate that co-operatives were having an increasingly positive impact on women – 80 per cent of survey respondents felt that co-operatives were better than other types of private or public sector business in advancing gender equality.

‘Co-operatives have a history of contributing to equality as well as to economic and social empowerment,’ said Simel Esim, Chief of the ILO Cooperatives Unit.

‘Considering that 2015 marks 20 years since the adoption of the United Nations’ Beijing Declaration on gender equality and women’s empowerment, these survey results reflect a positive trend for women’s involvement and advancement through the co-operative movement,’ she said.

The poll of nearly 600 respondents included co-operative practitioners, civil society organisations, academics, and government workers.

50 per cent of respondents were from Europe and 15 per cent from both Asia and North America.

The remaining respondents were from sub-Saharan Africa, South and Central America, and the Middle East and North Africa.

According to survey respondents, cultural issues were the most significant barrier to gender equality encountered by co-operatives. This was overwhelmingly felt by 65 per cent of survey respondents.

Survey respondents also said further support of civil society and recognition by the state would continue to boost women’s empowerment and gender equality through co-operatives.

The poll results show that access to employment was being indirectly facilitated by co-operatives in fields such as housing, healthcare, childcare, and eldercare, which provide women with affordable and accessible services that enable them to work.

About two thirds of survey respondents felt that women’s opportunity to participate in governance and management was a highly important feature of co-operatives.

While 50 per cent of respondents felt that member education and training were vital for co-operatives, about the same number indicated that in the co-operatives they were most familiar with, there are never training sessions relevant to women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Data gathered from the respondents revealed there seemed to be growing attention to gender issues, movement of women into leadership roles, and the increasing development of women owned co-operatives.

According to the study, in Europe and North America this was noted to be the case within the financial and social co-operatives specifically, while progress in the agricultural sector was particularly observed within Africa, Latin America, and India.


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