The International Co-operative Alliance’s Gender Equality Committee has met in Malaysia where it held elections for its executive committee.
The meeting, which preceded the Alliance’s Global Conference and General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur, saw the committee declare its intent to deal with the challenges facing women around the world and empower them within the movement.
Maria Eugenia Pérez Zea from Colombia was re-elected chair of the committee. She is also chair of COOMEVA, the country’s biggest co-operative, and is executive director of Ascoop, the national association of co-operatives. Ms Pérez has been active in the movement for 18 years.
The close election saw Marjaana Saarikoski from SOK Group in Finland come second. She was elected vice chair along with Xiomara Nunez de Cespedes from the Dominican Republic.
Ms Pérez said: “I know that Marjaana and I have the same interest we want to work as a team for something that is very important and for which we have a lot of work to do,” she said.
“We will work hard to consolidate our committee. This is not the work of one person this is shared labour.”
Ms Pérez said the committee – the first thematic committee to be set up by the Alliance – still faces challenges, adding that it needs to coordinate its work with all regions of the Alliance.
Issues such as violence against women and the need to promote training for female employees and representatives were crucial to the genuine empowerment of women in the movement, she added.
The executive committee was elected for a four-year term, with seven candidates standing for seven positions available.
The Gender Equality Committee now comprises: Maria Eugenia Pérez Zea (chair); Marjaana Saarikoski, Finland (vice chair), Xiomara Nunez de Cespedes, Dominican Republic (vice chair); Vania Boyuklieva, Bulgaria; Arti Bisaria, India; Stefania Marcone, Italy; and Malena Riudavets Suarez, Spain.