Celebrating Women in Cooperative Businesses

Happy International Women’s Day! It’s a holiday that gets more attention abroad than it tends to receive here in the United States, but today the Bethlehem Food Co-Op would like to acknowledge the contribution of women to cooperative businesses all over the world, and in turn, the work such organizations do to improve the wellbeing of women everywhere.

IWD-logo-portaiteps.pngFrom Cooperative & Mutual Insurance Companies (48% of which had three or more women on their boards as of 2015, far surpassing the industry average), to Savings & Credit Cooperatives, Consumer Cooperatives to Worker Cooperatives, women on every continent are taking a leadership and ownership role in businesses that shape their societies and address the needs of their communities.

It’s an important role to play. The United Nations views gender equity as a key factor in achieving sustainable economic development and widespread social prosperity. And indeed, cooperative enterprises are in an excellent position to help meet this challenge.

The International Labour Organization defines a cooperative as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.”

The purely democratic nature of cooperatives, in which all members enjoy voting rights and profit sharing, can provide opportunity for women to become active participants in business, especially in parts of the world where societal, cultural and religious norms would otherwise present a barrier.

In Nepal, for example, cooperative participation is significant. Over 3 million people are affiliated with over 19,000 cooperatives, Savings and Credit Cooperatives can provide members, many of whom are farmers, with much-needed fertilizer and seeds, as well as technical and marketing services.

In Japan, women comprise 95% of consumer co-ops and hold key governance positions within their organizations.

One shining example here in America is the Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, NY. This is a worker-owned cooperative that has grown since its founding in 1985 to now include staff of over 2,000 people, 90% of which are women. The cooperative provides training and stable employment to low-income and unemployed women, while providing the community with high-quality in-home health care.

Perhaps best stated in a research paper on the Influence of Cooperative Society Membership on Women Owned SMEs in West Africa published by Global Scientific Journal, “It is a general view that panacea to economic problems lies in the human factor; and that more can be achieved when people coordinate their efforts with each other and take concerns and talents of others into consideration.”

Today we salute the women who are joining forces to build more resilient communities and make a difference for the betterment of society on the whole.


Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment