Working Women’s Forum – Indian Cooperative Network for Women (WWF-ICNW) Side event at the 62nd Commission for Social Development (CSocD62) from U.N. H.Q. New York., (held in Chennai)

The UNCSOD 62 event entitled: “Empowering for equality: Women’s Crucial Role in Cooperatives as Catalysts for Transforming Social inequity and patriarchal practices” allocated  to the Working Women’s Forum –Indian Cooperative Network  for Women”

Date: 8.02.2024 Venue: WWF-ICNW H.Q., Chennai, India

The UNCSOD 62 event entitled: “Empowering for equality: Women’s Crucial Role in Cooperatives as Catalysts for Transforming Social inequity and patriarchal practices” allocated  to the Working Women’s Forum –Indian Cooperative Network  for Women”

Date: 8.02.2024 Venue: WWF-ICNW H.Q., Chennai, India

Dr.Nandini Azad, President, Working Women’s Forum – Indian Cooperative Network for Women (WWF-ICNW) welcomed all to this historic side event of the U.N. Commission for Social Development (62nd session) that has for the third time held in the historic city of Chennai, Tamilnadu (near the tip of the South Asian sub-continent). By the Working Women’s Forum and Indian Cooperative Network for Women H.Q. The members, CEO’s, the President Dr.Nandini Azad WWF-ICNW campus welcomed greeted to tell their story and connect with all of the registered online participants, from 40 countries, panellists and 300 grassroots women workers in India watching from several States of India namely Tamilnadu, Karnataka Andhra Pradesh & Telangana. Having reached 6,20,000 women in 270 trades in 13 branches of South India. Expressing gratitude to the UNCSocD62, for awarding todays panel from New York H.Q., entrusting largely poor women workers mass organization, the Working Women’s Forum (with UN ECOSOC Consultative Status for 27 years).

The event started by her welcoming warmly with opening remarks Dr. Nandini Azad paying tribute to their legendary founder late Padma Shri Dr. Jaya Arunachalam, whose 94th birth anniversary is today. As is customary in Asia, paying obeisance to her memory as she initiated, organized unregulated informal sector women into this mass organization. Dr.Azad said we work all over in 4 Southern States of India i.e., Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana.

She continued today the organizations clout and its rise to global leadership wherein in 44 years they are key players on global high tables of policy with their voices and issues of informal sector women heard. In New York, Germany, Netherlands, Japan. WWF-ICNW stands represented on both the global unions/alliances of International Cooperative Movement today through election by several countries apex cooperative bodies of several countries. An extraordinary co incidence for the first time globally by this powerful mass womens cooperative union and a active global player on gender and cooperative issues i.e., the poor women from the informal sector.

The panel today was divided into 3 sections both live and video. First a brief on new status report on the WWF-ICNW was given (please see her speech attached) by President WWF-ICNW, Dr.Nandini Azad. Next the International Raiffeisen Union (IRU) Secretary General was the Keynote speaker. The IRU is the worlds oldest cooperative union from Germany and DGRV, the association of German Cooperative banks was represented by IRU Secretary General, Mr. Andreas Kappes. The very committed cooperative leader in Europe and globally in his keynote address. While bringing in the flavour of European leadership in cooperatives, he was proud that IRU elected the ICNW President Dr. Azad as the first women on their global board in 50 years. Also that he was honoured to meet Late H.S. Jaya Arunachalam in Germany. Recently honoured WWF-ICNW re-electing to the IRU board (second time in 100 years). He spoke about the role of women in IRU Cooperatives and international commitments for gender equality.

The Asian pioneer Mr. Hirofumi Kobayashi, Executive Director, Institute for the Development of Agricultural Cooperation in Asia (IDACA) set up by the iconic Ja-Zenchu, the largest Japanese Agricultural Women’s Cooperative participated from the IDACA institution. He also spoke, on the Working Women’s Forum / Indian Cooperative Network for Women, when they attended his International Grain Survey workshop. Also IDACA experiences on the need for training and capacity building in cooperative/movements from Japan, Asia, Africa etc. Focusing on training as very important alongwith credit provision he concluded with a best practice module and tabular column.

Ms.Xiomara Cespedes, Chair of the Gender Equality Committee of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) sent a congratulatory message to the WWF-ICNW leadership, members, institutions Having had Dr. Nandini Azad as a former member of ICA Gender Equality Committee, Brussels. Ms.Xiomara emphasized the need for Gender violence solutions essential with financial inclusion. That peace at home/work for women an essential human right.

Ms.Pieterson Boogaard, Head of Agribusiness FMO, Netherlands, one of the biggest banks in the Netherlands spoke on efforts in reducing gender inequalities through financing. A study that they commissioned to evaluate one of our investment funds active in Africa had this evidence.

Evidence shows that ‘gender neutral’ approaches are ineffective in reducing gender inequalities and can even exacerbate pre-existing inequalities, or at least perpetuate current differences. Therefore, gender sensitive solutions, such as improved access to finance, training, business development services and technical support, are important tools in promoting gender equality. It is FMO’s aim to actively contribute to reducing inequalities by, amongst other things, actively seeking investment opportunities that positively contribute to the full inclusion of women in economic, social and public life. FMO has committed to gender equality in a Position Statement and is a signatory of the 2X Challenge initiative to mobilize $3 billion in capital towards women’s economic empowerment. FMO has developed a gender lens approach for Financial Institutions’ investments. Yet, a gender approach for agribusiness investments remain less evident and thus a long task ahead.

Key Issues discussed in the event to summarize are:
Gender Inequality in Agriculture;
Intersectionality of Challenges:
Gender Equality in Family Farming – The Way Forward The Case of Indian Cooperative Network for Women;
Land Ownership and Financial Inclusion; Climate Financing;
Climate Change and Gender;
Role of Women’s Groups; Global Impact and SDGs;

Founders Day Awards – Jaya Arunachalam Awards for Excellence amongst Women Entrepreneurs in Cooperative.
Next, the Dr. H.S. Padma Shri Jaya Arunachalam women micro entrepreneur excellence awards in South India were announced. 9 awards in 3 States of South India honouring poor women that helped their organization / cooperative survive 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 (1000 Euros) loans today have been able to through the various holistic services aspire, educate girls as doctors or children as engineers. Moving their children slowly into the formal sector.

Also moving to employing other women and are slowly into the formal sector. Till last 3 years – 24 such awardees have been honoured from South India who have employed 3 to 4 staff each. Creating wealth and growth from the grassroots by poor women and girls.

This year 9 other Jaya Arunachalam awardees were announced today for 2023-2024 are:

  1. Ms. Revathy Vijayabaskar, Electrical Shop, Central Chennai, Tamil Nadu (T.N.).
  2. Ms. Umamaheshwari Chandrasekar, Vegetable vendor, South Chennai, T.N.
  3. Ms. Vasantha Dhanavendran, Coconut business, Milk vendor, Adiramapattinam, T.N.
  4. Ms. Rathna Athithiyan, Floor cleaner manufacturer, Vellore, Tamil Nadu.
  5. Ms. Dhanalakshmi Jayaraman, Tiffin, Snacks shop, Kancheepuram, T.N.,
  6. Ms. Vijayalakshmi Govindharaj, Tailoring, Bengaluru, Karnataka
  7. Ms. Rathnamani Prabhuraj Arasu, Beedi, (country cigar) Incense stick, Channapatna, Karnataka,
  8. Ms. Palaparthi Rajamani, Milk vendor, Narasapur, Andhra Pradesh,
  9. Ms. Raidu Kamala, Hotel, Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh.

The 9 awardees each in their acceptance speech were grateful for the continuous training, loans that helped them enhance their work and life thanking their cooperatives, staff and President.

The awardees include vegetable vendors, farmers, country cigar makers, floor cleaner manufacturers, tailoring, hotel business, electrical spare parts selling and also incense stick makers.

Micro entrepreneurs, who have taken subsequent loans from ICNW-WWF, increased employment, moved from informal to pre-formal sector, educated their children, empowered and involved in the WWF/ICNW women based activity). 9 awardees provided case studies from South India and their acceptance speech.

The side event at the 62nd session of the Commission for Social Development provides a platform for global stakeholders particularly women farmers, organizations, cooperatives to share their successful models, advocate for gender equality in agriculture, and contribute to the global agenda of sustainable development (including climate change). The focus on inclusive family farming structures and empowering women farmers is crucial for achieving long-term prosperity in rural communities worldwide.

Gender based violence solutions are important to Women’s Human rights, the right to live in dignity as women, entrepreneurs, home managers community leaders, President WWF Dr.Azad said Youth forums against gender violence, work through street theatre and sports, training to resocialize men away from patriarchy towards gender equality for its cooperative members too.

WWF-ICNW’s generational equality and alliance with men and boys forums for gender equality is alongwith the Independent Commission on People’s Rights and Development (ICPRD) (a sister concern). It shows its integrated approach to prevent gender violence. By bringing in women mentors to resocialize boys and into combating patriarchy and gender violence.

Gender equality becomes a agenda for the community, cooperatives, nation and globally with onus not only on women alone.

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; 6,20,000 members have been reached in in 4 states of South India, 270 trades. We welcome you on behalf of our members.

Indeed this event heralds a clarion call by Dr.Nandini Azad, President, WWF-ICNW and ICPRD to male/female cooperative leaders to integrate financial inclusion with Gender violence – i.e., the Gender based violence product in micro finance.

This was followed by Q and A Session including WWF-ICNW grassroots women members from various branches, participants from all over the globe engaged in a meaningful discussion. I headed with a vote of thanks to cooperatives from the several countries, the media, the communication team, panellists, multilaterals, NGO’s, Governments.

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