Like other global development bodies, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) recognises that equality between women and men is an essential requirement in achieving human development, thus improving people’s lives and opportunities.
Over the last few years, the challenge of achieving equality between women and men has been incorporated as a development objective and strategy of the ICA Gender Equality Committee. Today we know that gender equity, understood as fair treatment for both women and men in accordance with their respective abilities and specific needs, is the main tool in facilitating access to progress.
In 1995 our commitment to equality was made manifest when we, the co-operators of the world, approved the Resolution on Gender Equality in Co-operatives at the ICA Centenary Congress, thus setting it as a global priority. We agreed that:
- A better balance between female and male co-operators and employees would be a re-energising force and a source of competitive advantage to co-operatives
- Women and men must have equal participation and job opportunities, the same working conditions and equal pay for equal work, as well as equal training and educational opportunities
- Shared influence and shared responsibilities between women and men are key to co-operative excellence
and therefore, “equality between men and women in decision making positions and in the activities of the co-operative movement” is essential for our movement to move forward.
In addition to meeting a moral and ethical obligation, promoting gender equality in the co-operative movement also entails promoting economic growth based on the ability to make use of human talent, appreciating differences and diversity in order to maximise the impact of people in economic and social progress within local communities.
The co-operative sector is currently facing the challenge of providing solutions to economic and social crises, but also the challenge of increasing the influence we can have on social change. We must strive for women and men to enjoy the benefits of development equally, while also ensuring they can freely make full use of their individual abilities. This requires men being included in these efforts, which must be scaled up in order to reduce the gender gap. Masculinity in its different forms must be included in our initiatives – which bring about transformation but which call into question current cultural models.
On the occasion of the celebrations for International Women’s Day 2014 and through the Gender Equality Committee, the ICA recognises the efforts and initiatives of co-operative organisations around the world in closing social, cultural, economic and political gaps that are perpetuated by gender inequalities.
We stand firm before the world as co-operators committed to the goal of ensuring the participation of women under equal conditions in employment, political and social spheres. We are committed to achieving more inclusive economic development, strengthening the participation of women and improving current levels of representation on our boards, where women have scope to lead decision making on a fair future.
We are surrounded by attempts to correct inequalities, but at the same time we are faced with fierce resistance to change in some sectors which continue to divide up work – including care – between men and women based on gender. This is an out-of-date characteristic of bygone centuries. Our principles and values drive us to push for a paradigm shift in gender relations, recognising the fact that we will only achieve progress for all if women can play their part in society under equal conditions and men and women benefit from society to an equal degree.
Now in this, the Co-operative Decade, we are called upon to permanently keep a wary eye on equality and to defend this ethical concept at the workplace, in businesses, during economic transactions, in our human relations and in society. Furthermore, on a broader level, we must maintain our co-operative identity and stand by our principles.
We are called upon this year to maintain our steadfast and collective action in consolidating a co-operative movement and a society which is led by men and women, working together for equality, solidarity, democracy and development.