You are here



Dear Cooperators,


Greetings from the ICA-AP Committee on Women!


This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress”. The theme seeks to highlight actions toward closing the gender gap to create prosperous economies and ensure sustainable societies. The UN Women has identified the following five key areas where joint actions are required: (1) Investing in women as a human rights issue;(2) Ending poverty;(3) Shifting to a green economy and care society; (4) Implementing gender-responsive financing; and (5) supporting feminist change makers.


Over the past 25 years, the ICA-AP Committee on Women has taken numerous initiatives that echo the message of this year’s International Women’s Day. Since its inception, the Committee has served as an international platform for women cooperators across the region where they are given opportunities to make themselves visible, voice their views and experiences, and build connections while responding to the emerging needs of capacity-building of women through various programs. This year, the Committee has been implementing its activities with newly adopted strategic pillars: 1) Economic empowerment 2) Social empowerment 3) Knowledge, education, and training, and 4) Solidarity.


Our Committee and its members have taken important and systematic steps to invest in women and mainstream them in their organisations and line of work. They have achieved this by setting up women and gender advancement committees; advocating for women’s reservation in management and leadership positions; and giving equal opportunities to women irrespective of their age, experiences, and social background; thus, promoting diversity and gender-inclusion in cooperatives.


Investment in women cooperators in Asia and the Pacific region has yielded desirable results vis-à-vis women’s empowerment and sustainable development.


Let me highlight some examples. Toward ending poverty for all, the Gujarat Mahila Credit Cooperative Society (GMCC) in India provides support and guidance to women in various areas such as entrepreneurship, micro-credit, health, and education. Skills-based training programs for women members opened new avenues of employment and entrepreneurship and improved their economic status in society.


Toward a care society, iCOOP in the Republic of Korea has evolved from promoting ‘ethical consumerism’ to ‘healing and restoring’ and ‘lifecare movement’ for the security of members by creating a trust-based healthy society which is deeply related to the health of the planet Earth. ANGKASA in Malaysia through its Women’s Committee supports kindergarten and childcare facilities which not only provide a nurturing environment for children but also enable working women to pursue their careers effectively. Rah-e-Roshd Educational Complex (RCEC) in Iran set up by seven mothers to start kindergarten in 1985, offers sustainable jobs to educated women and provides a nurturing environment to children as the largest educational cooperative in the country.


Toward promoting gender equality in cooperatives, the cooperative movement in Nepal has successfully advocated for the reservation of women in cooperative governance and decision-making. The Cooperative Act of Nepal, which mandates 33% reservation for women on the Board of Directors in cooperatives, improved organizational governance and efficiency and empowered women in their communities. A study conducted by the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) in Australia revealed significant improvements in gender diversity among chairs and Chief Executives of Australia’s Top 100 cooperative and mutual enterprises (CMEs). In 2022, 23% of the CEO positions among the Top 100 CMEs were held by women.


As these examples, recent discussions and reports by the ICA-AP Committee on Women indicate that the cooperative movement in the Asia and Pacific is progressing well in its commitment to gender equality. However, the journey ahead is not simple. We need to identify new and innovative ways to make our impact effective, visible, and lasting.


Furthermore, amidst the intersecting challenges, the achievement of gender equality remains a distant goal. The snapshot on Women’s Leadership in Asia and the Pacific by UN Women Asia and Pacific states that “in Asia and the Pacific, women’s role as leaders and agents of change is being increasingly recognized. In recent years, governments, political bodies, businesses, and corporations have moved towards gender parity, although this progress remains slow”. This brings to our attention that investment in women is required holistically; not only through resource allocation but also by giving women fair and equitable opportunities to learn, grow, and prosper.


In my closing remarks, I would like to urge my fellow cooperators in the Asia and Pacific region to continue allocating their time to hear, see, understand, and acknowledge women’s voices and facilitate dialogues so that we continue to prosper collectively and develop sustainably. 


Best wishes,

Chitose Arai,


ICA-AP Committee on Women