Midcounties celebrates the women of co-op history for IWD

‘We wanted to show our support for International Women’s Day and celebrate the hundreds of women that have made co-operative movement what it is today’

Midcounties Co-op celebrated International Women’s Day on 8 March with an event at the Black Country Living Museum, honouring the heroines of co-op history.

The ‘Women in Co-operation’ event celebrated the work of the Bloxwich Women’s Guild, which was founded in 1883 and played a vital role in establishing the co-op movement. Doreen Shaw, 95, who served as its president for over 30 years, was guest of honour.

And former Guild secretary Edna Marshall spoke at the event, alongside co-operative heritage specialist Anne Ransome and young co-operators Daisy Clifford and Emily Sandilands. They discussed the influential role of women in co-op, from the 19th century to the trailblazers of today.

Daisy Clifford, Doreen Shaw and Emily Sandilands at the event

Midcounties director Olivia Birch said gender balance was important for good governance on the society’s board, and for promoting businesses and mitigating risk.

Fairtrade Fortnight (25th February – 10th March) was also on the agenda; this year’s campaign, ‘She Deserves’, was aimed at helping women in developing countries, such as the Côte D’Ivoire and Guatemala, to earn more than 74p a day – currently the average daily wage.

Related: Women co-operators share their journeys for IWD

Among those attending the event was Jennie Simpson, who earlier this year won a trip of a Fairtrade coffee farm in Guatemala, where she saw how Fairtrade supports farmers in developing countries. A video of Jennie’s experience was shown at the event, which provided insight and prompted discussion of how the co-op movement supports women throughout the global supply chain.

She said: “The Women in Co-operation day brought together women from across the country with a shared commitment to co-operative values, including democracy and equality. Everyone learnt important lessons – on the movement throughout history, and also what else can be done to support women across the supply chain.

Celebrating Bloxwich Co-operative Women’s Guild

“The presentation on Fairtrade and the ‘She Deserves’ campaign was particularly thought-provoking. Since returning from Guatemala, I’ve been doing everything I can to encourage people to choose Fairtrade, so I was proud to see the video from the trip feature as part of the event.”

Tarra Simmons, general manager for co-operative social responsibility at Midcounties, said: “We wanted to show our support for International Women’s Day and celebrate the hundreds of women that have made co-operative movement what it is today.

“There was a strong feeling of solidarity on the day and we’d like to say a big thank you to all of our speakers that helped to make the day a success.”