Women in many countries are being empowered through cooperatives, raising their incomes, becoming more self-reliant and in the process overcoming gender stereotypes, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
In a message marking the International Day of Cooperatives, Mr. Ban cited the “egalitarian ethos, participatory decision-making, common ownership and commitment to goals beyond the profit motive” as reasons why business, social and economic cooperatives are expanding opportunities for women around the globe.
The Secretary-General noted that cooperatives are particularly useful during the current worldwide economic crisis, as they help people in vulnerable communities who face reduced state or private sector services.
“Through membership in cooperatives, women are developing self-help strategies, generating their own income and assets, and learning how to overcome entrenched biases and prejudices,” he said.
Mr. Ban noted that cooperatives are therefore playing a critical role in efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which include eradicating poverty and promoting gender equality – by their target date of 2015.
“Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility. I urge the adoption of policies conducive to the creation and expansion of cooperatives, especially those that facilitate the participation of women.”
In 1992 the General Assembly proclaimed the first Saturday of July each year to be the International Day of Cooperatives, honouring the centenary of the founding of the International Cooperative Alliance. The theme to this year's observance is “cooperative enterprise empowers women.”