Cracking the Cooperative Ceiling: Dr.Nandini Azad’s Trailblazing Leadership Journey”

New Board Election – The International Raiffeisen Union, (oldest Global Cooperative Union) will hold its board, Presidium and Re-election, Bonn, 6th October 2023

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Cracking the Cooperative Ceiling: Dr.Nandini Azad’s Trailblazing Leadership Journey”

Koblenz, Germany – In a historic moment on September 27th, 2018, Dr. Nandini Azad, an eminent figure in India, etched her name in the annals of cooperative history. Her remarkable journey continued with a ground breaking re-election to the International Raiffeisen Union (IRU) Board on October 6, 2023, making her the first woman to join the board in 50 years and the only woman in the world to be re-elected to this prestigious position.

With a career spanning over three decades, Dr. Azad has consistently made significant contributions to fields such as gender equality, cooperatives, poverty alleviation, development, and financial inclusion. Her journey to the IRU Board began with her service as a special invitee to the Raiffeisen Board on gender diversity, where she played a pivotal role in advocating for greater inclusion and representation of women in the cooperative sector. In 2018, Dr. Azad accomplished a remarkable milestone as she became the first woman to join the IRU Board in 50 years. Her election was a testament to her expertise and dedication to cooperative ideals. Her trailblazing journey continued as she broke barriers, becoming the only woman in the world to secure re-election to this prestigious board. Her second term victory reaffirmed her commitment to fostering cooperation and sustainable development on a global scale. Beyond her international achievements, Dr. Azad’s exceptional contributions to India’s social and cooperative sector have earned her recognition among 133 influential figures, as acknowledged by the renowned German Indologist, Prof. Dietmar Rothermund, in his book titled “My Encounters in India.” This recognition underscores her profound impact on the cooperative movement and her tireless efforts to promote gender equality and alleviate poverty.

Dr.Nandini Azad with Mr.FrankyDepickere, President IRU & Mr. Andreas Kappes, Secretary General IRU, Germany, 2018 election

The International Raiffeisen Union (IRU), an esteemed worldwide association of national cooperative organizations, is built upon the foundational ideas of Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, widely regarded as the “Father of Cooperatives.” With 53 member organizations spanning 33 countries across the globe, including Switzerland, Austria, France, Netherlands, Kenya, and India, IRU plays a pivotal role in advancing cooperative ideals and practices on a global scale.

Dr. Nandini Azad’s journey to the pinnacle of cooperative leadership was paved with dedication, expertise, and a deep commitment to gender diversity within the cooperative movement. This remarkable achievement speaks volumes about her continued dedication and contributions to the cooperative movement, which has been characterized by her unwavering commitment to gender equity and social inclusion.

Beyond her international leadership role, Dr. Azad also serves as the Elected President of the Indian Cooperative Network for Women (ICNW), in Chennai. ICNW, a multistate cooperative operating in three southern states of India—Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka—touches the lives of 6 lakh (600,000) poor women involved in 276 different trades within the informal sector. The unique and impactful nature of ICNW drew the attention of none other than Madam Hillary Clinton when she served as the US Secretary of State. She visited ICNW to observe its operation and interact with women entrepreneurs, admiring the unique new age co-operative of grassroots women. 

Dr. Azad’s dedication to the cooperative movement extended to her roles as the Chairperson of the Outreach Committee for the National Credit Fund for Women (Rashtriya MahilaKosh-RMK) and the E-Women’s Market Portal (Mahila E-Haat) under the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India (2014 – 2020). She now serves as the Global Coordinator of Cooperatives, a prestigious nomination by the World Farmers Organization in Rome. Her influence extends further as a member of the Governing Board of the National Council for Cooperative Training (NCCT), also under the Ministry of Cooperation, Government of India. Dr. Azad’s impact reverberates across borders, as she spearheaded the ground breaking regional study titled “Gender is more than a Statistic – Status of Women in Co-operatives in the Asia-Pacific Region.” This comprehensive study encompassed 18 countries and 28 apex cooperative organizations, shedding light on the vital role of gender inclusivity within the cooperative landscape. 

Dr. Azad has also served as the elected Vice Chairperson, Chairperson of the International Cooperative Alliance – Asia Pacific Women’s Committee (ICA-AP). The ICA-AP, an apex organization for cooperatives worldwide, represents 200 cooperative federations and organizations across 110 countries, as of 2021The UN report’s recognition of Dr. Nandini Azad’s journey is truly well-deserved. Her unwavering dedication, expertise, and steadfast commitment to cooperative values have undoubtedly made a significant impact on her community and the cooperative movement at large. Dr. Azad’s inspiring journey exemplifies the power of perseverance and a strong sense of purpose. Her leadership in cooperative initiatives not only breaks down barriers for women but also showcases the positive influence that dedicated individuals can have on their communities and beyond. Dr.Nandini Azad’s journey from Chennai to the global stage of cooperative leadership is a testament to her unwavering dedication to gender equality, poverty alleviation, and the cooperative principles initiated by Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen. She has been re-elected to the IRU Board for the second term which is held on October 6, 2023. Her sustained leadership is expected to influence cooperatives’ future journey through enhancing womens inclusivity and global impact. Her experience provides a ray of light, encouraging both men and women to break stereotypes and achieve new heights in cooperative leadership.

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