Women cooperative warriors combat COVID-19 with sustainable gender and equity strategies

INN/Chennai, @Infodeaofficial

The event started of with a Welcome speech and theme of the workshop by Dr. Nandini Azad.

May I first of all welcome you heartily in warm cooperative sisterhood greetings to this historic side event of the United Nation’s 60th session of the Commission on Social Development (CSocD60). That is being held for the first time in the historic city of Chennai, Tamilnadu near the tip of the South Asian sub-continent. Flanked by the Bay of Bengal we are at the H.Q of the Working Women’s Forum and Indian Cooperative Network for Women H.Q. On behalf of the members, CEO’s, and myself, we welcome, greet and are here to tell our story & hear, connect with all of you. We thank the UNCSocD60 especially Madam Daniela Bas of UN DESA, N.Y for todays panel who trusted it to largely poor women workers mass organizations, the Working Women’s Forum (with consultative UN ECOSOC Status) for 26 years. Our legendary founder late Dr. Jaya Arunachalam we first pay tribute as customary in Asia on her 90th birth anniversary this week.


As she initiated, organized atomized, unregulated informal sector women into this mass organization. Located in 4 Southern States of India i.e., Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, today this movements clout and its rise to global leadership is wherein in 43 years they are key players on global high tables of policy with their voices and issues heard. Be it New York, Germany, Brussels, Japan. WWF-ICNW stand’s represented on most global unions/alliances of the International Cooperative Movement today through elections. An extraordinary co incidence for the first time globally that this powerful mass women’s cooperative union is a active global player on gender and cooperative issues i.e., the poor women from the informal sector.

The panel today is online mainly given current constraints i.e., the new normal. First to brief you on the report of the WWF-ICNW, honoured to lead the WWF-ICNW as their President. The Secretary, New Ministry of Cooperatives, Government of India Mr.D.K.Singhji on behalf of the Government of India congratulates us on the event informing the gathering about the challenges of Indian women’s and their surmounting it through engagement with cooperatives.
The inaugural remarks are by the inspiring Madam Daniela Bas Director, Division for Inclusive Social Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs |United Nations from the New York H.Q., delivering it. She is the focal point at the United Nations on cooperatives. They have completed 10 years of cooperative’s at the UNDESA, N.Y. Thank you Madam for all your support.

The comprehensive keynote address on the issue, setting a benchmark is by the committed Madam Simel Esim, Head of the Cooperative Unit of the International Labour Organizations, Geneva – a support to the challenging work of cooperatives including ‘women only’ cooperatives.

Next, a short video on the theme of the event i.e., The micro entrepreneur warrior i.e., Covid heroines event honouring thousands of poor women that helped their organizations/ cooperatives survive the pandemic by utilizing its services with commitment were awarded. Women members who for 37 years from Rs.200 (Euro 2 loans) to Rs.1,00,000 loans (1000 Euro) today have been able to through the various holistic services aspire, educate girls as doctors or children as engineers. Also moving to employing other women and are slowly into the formal sector. This year 9 other

‘Covid Heroines’ are being honoured.
IRU i.e., the International Raiffeisen Union the worlds oldest cooperative union from Germany and DGRV, the association of German Cooperative Unions will be represented by IRU Secretary General, Mr. Andreas Kappes, in his presentation on the same. A committed cooperative leader from Europe and globally. We have been represented on their global board, first time a woman in 50 years.

Next Madam Chitose Arai, (JCCU) Vice Chairperson of the Asia Pacific Committee on Women for the International Cooperative Alliance for Asia Pacific and the Japanese Consumer Cooperative Union (JCCU) highlights her partnership with WWF/ICNW. We both have Chaired, worked together in the Asia Pacific Women’s Committee of the ICA-AP.

Next, a short video on WWF/ICNW’s digital financial literacy training creating a revolutionary change bringing technology to poor women workers during Covid-19 is also highlighted, as a tool for them to combat Covid-19 for financial inclusion.

Next, a speech by the dynamic Ms Arianna Giuliodori, Secretary General – World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO), Italy on the need to strengthen the role of women in agricultural cooperatives and WFO’s role in it. We have in ICNW been asked to coordinate a global cooperative policy for the WFO. A real honour.

The visit of Mme. Hillary Clinton as U.S. Secretary of State to our WWF/ICNW H.Q., was historic. World leaders have increasingly admired our gender and equity model; 6,00,000 members in 4 states of South India, 267 trades. We welcome you on behalf of our members. Our two short videos will highlight the rest. Seeing is believing.

SPEECH OF DEVENDRA KUMAR SINGH – Secretary, New Ministry of Cooperation, Government of India.
Mr. Devendra Kumar Singh, Secretary, New Ministry of cooperation, Government of India his initiated speech by congratulating WWF – ICNW and other women groups working for cooperatives. He states that this is the proud moment for the recognition of the work for the upliftment of women. He applauded the women’s cooperatives who came forward in the pandemic and contributed to strengthen the supply chain by performing various activities. He added that the organization cooperatives had tremendous resilience to cope and emerge stronger after a crisis. He conveys that formation of ministry of cooperation has a reason to bring prosperity through cooperatives. He concludes his speech by wishing and saying that increasing number of women cooperatives and increasing number of members in those cooperatives makes him glad.

SPEECH OF DANIELA BAS – Director of the division for inclusive social development, Department of economic and social affairs.
Madam Daniela bas, Director of the Division for Inclusive Social Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, starts her note by addressing Dr. Nandini Asad as an amazing women and professional and ICNW for their transformative work. She is the focal point in cooperative at the U.N New York. She stated that Covid 19 has reminded the world the importance of cooperatives in solving common concerns, who continued their strong support in the pandemic. “This pandemic was devastating particularly for women around the world and also in India, in which many are front line and informal workers, she opens”. This pandemic negatively affected their livelihood, as often they lack social protection benefits. She also mentioned that poor women may lack resources and information by which may be at higher risk. She commented on the work of the WWF, which have touched the 6,00,000 major women workers in India. She also adds that national and international organisation can support their work and assures that UNITED NATION’S DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFAIR will stand with the organisation. She concludes her speech by saying that advancement of social inclusion is needed for women, person with disabilities and indigenous people with inter governmental support and critical policies and strategies can be formulated to reduce the inequalities and which strengthen social protection and provide opportunities.
SPEECH OF ANDREAS KAPPEES – Secretary general, International Raiffeisen Union

Andreas kappees, Secretary General International Raiffeisen Union opens his speech by applauding the president of WWF Dr. Nandini Azad and the late founder Dr. Jaya Arunachalam. He said many households have gone through gender based violence during the pandemic. He quoted Colombia for the national supply chain system, women cooperatives of 16-17 members were taking care of their children also engaged in making hand crafts. The pandemic have clearly demonstrated that women can up hold their needs. He concluded his speech by thanking Dr. Nandini Azad and conveyed that they are looking forward for the continued cooperation from the ICNW.

SPEECH OF SIMEL ESIM – Head cooperative unit, International Labour Organisation
Simel Esim, Head Cooperative Unit, International Labour Organisation, says that the ILO has mandate to pursue social justice and decent work for all, by which it has recognised the importance of cooperatives since 1990. The ILO has separate unit for cooperatives which consists, research, capacity building and policy advocacy and project work. They also focus on the cooperatives owned and managed by the women. ILO states that 2 billion workers are there in the informal employment representing 3 out of 5 employed persons. She stated that women in countries with lower and lower middle income have higher informal employment rates than man by which they lack work, income security, social and food security. She says that women are burdened with the unpaid works in their home. she says domestic violence as the invisible crisis of the pandemic lockdown. She states that in a two round research, 1500 women was interviewed to know the long term impacts on livelihoods of domestic workers, waste pickers, street vendors and home based workers. This research says that, most of the workers lost their livelihood in the beginning of pandemic 2020 have not recovered the ability to work. The typical informal workers was only earning two third of their pre covid earnings. She insists that home based workers had hardest hit among the informal workers and states that in the states of these crisis women cooperatives have set up to provide relief measures and services. She mentioned in her speech that in Indian Women Farmers Cooperatives have provided seeds and working capitals for the women and to raise public awareness against corona virus. And also says women in Indian cooperates have started looking into alternative ways to strengthen livelihoods. She states women cooperatives have played active role in mitigating their works during covid 19 and mentions that there is a need of “Women cooperative development fund”. This fund can serve as a source of finance for working capital especially during covid -19, which should be easily accessible and should reach to women cooperative members. She also adds supported ecosystem infrastructure is needed which includes legal advice, technical support and capacity building with the enabling environment.

SPEECH OF Ms. CHITOS ARAI, Vice President, Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union (JCCU), (A National Federation of Consumer Cooperative in Japan.) Board Member, ICA Asia-Pacific (ICA-AP) Acting Chairperson, ICA-AP Committee on Women

Women Cooperators in the Asia-Pacific Region for Just Recovery

Dear Dr. Nandini Azad, distinguished speakers and participants, ladies and gentlemen, Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak at the side event of the 60th Session of the UN Commission for Social Development.
First of all, on behalf of the JCCU, I would like to congratulate Dr. Nandini Azad, the President of the Working Women’s Forum (WWF) and the Indian Cooperative Network for Women (ICNW), for her considerable contribution to the protection of the rights of socially vulnerable women workers in India. Amid the protracted COVID-19 pandemic, people’s lives, livelihoods, and dignity are at stake.

Under these circumstances, I believe that WWF/ICNW’s efforts under the leadership of Dr. Azad will become even more important in building a just society. I am sure that today’s event themed “Women Cooperative Warriors Combat Covid-19 with Sustainable Gender and Equity Strategies” will broaden the understanding of WWF/ICNW’s efforts and have a significant impact.

I also serve as the Acting Chairperson of the ICA Asia-Pacific (ICA-AP) Committee on Women, and I am working with women cooperators in the Asia-Pacific region to promote gender equality.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected women cooperators in the Asia-Pacific region in many ways. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, we have been striving to understand the situations for women in cooperatives through online activities. First, we found out that women cooperators had been facing a number of serious problems amid the pandemic.

The problems included increased domestic violence, increased household duties, decreased income, lack of product sales channels, mental health problems, limited involvement of women in cooperatives’ planning and decision-making to respond to the pandemic, and dismissal.


It was evident that the situations for women had changed due to the pandemic and that they were facing more difficulties than before the pandemic.
Digital financial inclusion
In India, women cooperative members were severely affected as they were unable to borrow credit, withdraw their savings, make payments, or transfer money due to restrictions on mobility and lack of public transportation. In response, the ICA-AP Committee on Women, in partnership with the WWF/ICNW, conducted a training of trainers on digital financial inclusion for women cooperative members.

Even under these difficult circumstances, women cooperators and their cooperatives have played important roles in their communities by conducting awareness campaigns on infection prevention, making donations, producing face masks, and providing medicines, personal protective equipment (PPE), and foods.

To take the example of Japan, Japanese consumer co-ops are playing important roles as one of the essential infrastructures for people’s livelihoods. At the same time, they are providing various support though their businesses and activities to help those who have been affected by the pandemic, such as producers, students, and children from economically disadvantaged families.

Women officers, employees, and members of consumer co-ops are playing central roles in these efforts. Meanwhile, initiatives by cooperatives to fight the pandemic have opened up new opportunities for women cooperators. These include skill development through online education and learning, digital inclusion with increased online activities, cooperation among women cooperators for exchange of views and practices, flexible work environment, new local business opportunities, and access to microfinance.

By proactively taking advantage of these micro-level opportunities, women cooperators are pushing for the changes they want to see, even amid the pandemic. I think that the unprecedented crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting structural changes in the economy and society also provide opportunities to improve the status of women.

To drive the improvement, it will become even more important to take gender sensitive policies, promote participation of women in decision-making, and advocate for changes.

Even though the situations surrounding women differ from country to country, let’s work together to ensure that women can realize their full potential against the Covid-19 pandemic, discrimination, prejudice, poverty, and disparity.
I would like to conclude my address by wishing for a successful event and the further development of the WWF/ICNW. Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Arianna Giuliodori, The Secretary General of the WFO, starts her speech by thanking the Working Women’s Forum for organising the event.
Agriculture during the pandemic was combated by cooperatives of farmers. She says, Food doesn’t appear magically on the shelves, these are amazing warriors fighting everyday for feeding us. It indicates Agriculture is the central pillar of our global harmony, she says that agriculture cooperatives are fundamental to advocate the voice of the farmers to empower and provide better opportunities. Agri- Coops played special roles in empowering the women, power to negotiate and take decision. She states, Women are not only capable for taking care of their family and communities but also capable of taking care of nature surrounding them and the planet. Women farmers are trustworthy in promoting bio diversity, but they have to be recognised and helped to overcome the barriers. Concludes her speech by motivating women to be farmer leaders and support not only for agriculture development but also economic, human and social development.

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