ILO COOP 100 Webinar II - Advancing gender equality though cooperatives

Four cooperative practitioners reflected on the current situation of gender equality within the cooperative movement, the role cooperatives can play, and the challenges they face in advancing gender equality. Their presentations highlighted the implications of COVID-19 on women in cooperatives and emerging responses. Over 160 people from around the world participated in the webinar.

Noticia | 28 de abril de 2020

The webinar was organized on 27 April 2020 as the second edition in a series of webinars around the Centenary of ILO’s Cooperatives Unit.

The webinar aimed at sharing experiences and research findings as to why women join or establish cooperatives and how they fare in cooperatives as founders, leaders, members, and workers. It also reflected on the positive role of cooperatives and challenges they face in advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Moderated by Philippe Marcadent, Chief of Inclusive Labour Markets, Labour Relations and Working Conditions Branch (INWORK) of the ILO, the webinar benefitted from the contributions of the following speakers:
  • Mirai Chatterjee, Chairperson, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Cooperative Federation, India
  • Sifa Chiyoge, Director, International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) Africa Regional Office, Kenya
  • Stefania Marcone, Chief, International Relations & European Policies, Legacoop, Italy
  • Nadya Weber, Independent Researcher, Canada
Ms. Chatterjee presented on SEWA’s dual strategy of organizing women informal economy workers into trade unions for rights and into cooperatives for livelihoods and essential services in India. SEWA is a trade union of 1.7 million women in the informal economy and has supported the formation of 120 women cooperatives across the country including in agriculture, finance, dairy, crafts, and multiple service sectors (care, cleaning, construction etc.) through its Cooperative Federation. Referring to the ILO estimate that around 400 million informal economy workers are at risk of falling deeper into poverty due to the COVID-19 crisis, she shared emerging responses by SEWA to COVID-19 and presented action points that can serve to protect women informal economy workers including immediate food and financial support, extending social protection and promoting digital inclusion. Her presentation is available here.

Ms. Chiyoge’s presentation focused on the current status of gender equality in Africa in general and activities of women cooperatives and challenges they face in advancing gender equality, in particular. Key challenges she highlighted include women’s limited access to land and other resources; gender barriers to leadership positions; and limited participation in the decision making processes (often worsened by violence at and conditions of meetings). Her presentation is available here.

Ms. Marcone reflected on the impact of COVID-19 on women co-operators and shared key requests raised by them particularly: access to credit and liquidity support for the survival of businesses and employment; support to women workers who have more family responsibilities at home in the adaptation to smart working; cooperation among schools, families, local authorities and the social and solidarity economy (SSE) organizations to reduce education inequalities among children; and 4) support to fight against worsening gender-based violence. She also shared initiatives by the cooperative movement at national, regional and international levels to advance gender equality. Her presentation is available here.

Ms. Weber’s presentation highlighted findings and recommendations from a study on “Gender equality and women’s empowerment in co-operatives” undertaken in 2015 with the support from the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) and a study on informal economy, women empowerment and collective action conducted with support from the International Development Research Center (IDRC) in 2019. A draft version of the latter study is available here. On policy and legislation issues, she shared recommendations on reducing cultural and structural barriers in women’s access to land, production inputs, finance and other services, and allowing all women workers to create their own cooperatives and other organizations. On cooperative management and operations, she emphasized the importance of setting a gender equality plan within a cooperative and tracking and measuring the progress of such plans. Her presentation is available here.

There will be more sessions as part of the ILO COOP 100 Webinar Series on key issues in the world of work throughout the year 2020. Please check here to stay up-to-date on ILO COOP 100 events.