What have co-ops been doing on International Women’s Day?

The International Co-operative Alliance has published a statement highlighting how “the world of labour is a crucial scenario for the development of women and men in which wide gaps and gender disparities persist”.

Women are still given job opportunities, and are treated and evaluated differently in the workplace, around the world, says the Alliance. Women account for under 40% of the total employment in the world – and the wage gap is estimated at 23%, which means that women earn 77 percent of what men earn.

A major concern of Alliance the is the areas of discrimination that are new or not visible yet, “such as the ‘feminization’ of women migrating or the discrimination based on immigration status including harassment, exploitation, denial of social security, and very low salaries.”

The Alliance also highlights the low participation of women in collective bargain agreements, the increasing unemployment rate among young women, discrimination based on sexual orientation and the the number of retired women who receive a pension – which is 10.6 percent points lower than that of men.

“In commemoration of the International Women’s Day, from the International Cooperative Alliance, we extend the call to the world’s cooperatives strengths with our commitment to the daily Sustainable Development Goals, and to maintain our adherence to cooperative principles and values ​​as powerful strategies to address persistent gender inequalities in the work industry,” says the statement.

“Collaboration between cooperatives in support of these purposes is vital, as well as a strategic alliance with governments and other economic sectors of development.”

In Lebanon, the women of Deir Kanoun Ras el Ain cooperative in South Lebanon worked with young activists from Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, to complete a solar energy installation that will provide regular and reliable power — and improve women’s lives.

The co-op makes rosewater, apple vinegar, orange sauce, apricot jam, crackers and tomato paste – but the diesel generator used to help them peel fruit, make dough and lift heavy loads is expensive, and electricity.

In 2016, the co-ops 23 members worked with Greenpeace Mediterranean-Arab World to launch a crowdfunding project to install solar power to heat water and power machines to knead dough and squeeze fruit, and on International Women’s Day 2017. the dream was realised.

“I can feel that everything is about to change for us,” says Daad Ismail, President of the women’s cooperative. “Electricity shortages have hurt our productivity, our working hours and our personal lives. We know that solar energy will not only help us to cut bills, generate more income and improve our lives, but it will also broaden our horizons with new opportunities.”

Installing the solar panels (Photo: Greenpeace / Fadi Gedeon)

In the USA, the Neighboring Food Co-ops Association (NFCA) published a statement on diversity, inclusion and democracy

“From our beginnings, co-ops have celebrated human diversity and worked to bring people together to meet our needs and achieve our aspirations. In short, we believe that we are better when we are welcoming, when we lift one another up, and when we work together to make life better for everyone,” said NFCA.

“Today, we are witnessing levels of political, social, and economic division that we believe do not reflect our ideals as a nation. While we honor differences of opinion, we are concerned that actions made by the current administration are fundamentally at odds with American Principles of democracy, diversity and inclusion, as well as the Co-operative Values of equality, solidarity, and caring for others.

“In this context, we reaffirm our commitment to being not just welcoming businesses, but empowering community enterprises. We seek to be positive resources and influences, presenting opportunities for constructive dialogs and collective actions for change. And we will explore ways that we can reach beyond our walls, advocating for policies that will contribute to democracy and equality, advance human rights, and support environmental sustainability.”

In England, the first community-owned pub in West Yorkshire is hosting a new art exhibition to celebrate International Women’s Week. The exhibition, which is showing throughout March at the at the Fox & Goose in Hebden Bridge, is a collaboration of three local female artists, Lynda Gledhill, Jane Townsend and Anna Butler.

  • Did you or your co-op mark International Women’s Day? Let us know in the comments below or email [email protected]