In a rather delayed report coming from Ahmadabad, SEWA Cooperative Federation recently organized a scintillating workshop on strengthening women’s cooperatives in India which saw participation of almost all the important co-op wings-NCUI, NCDC, ICA A-P, ILO and 42 women co-operators from the field.
The two-day workshop had participants from 21 cooperatives whose representatives came from 12 Indian states, including from the North-East–Nagaland, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. They came from diverse co-op fields including agriculture, financial services, handicrafts and services like home care and child care, says a mail from SEWA. Two participants from Iran’s Rah-e-Roshd Cooperative also participated and shared their experiences with women’s cooperatives, it added.
Welcoming the participants Mirai Chatterjee, Chairperson of SEWA Cooperative Federation said “of the over 7 lakh cooperatives in India, less than 1 % are women’s cooperatives; we need to change this by advocating for an enabling policy environment that will encourage women to form cooperatives in all parts of our country.”
Inaugurating the workshop, the legendary co-operator and SEWA’s Founder Elaben explained “When a woman milks a cow in her village, she is not counted as a worker. But when she is in a dairy cooperative, she gets an identity and visibility.”
On this occasion, Sundeep Nayak, Managing Director of NCDC explained that NCDC’s tag line is “assisting cooperatives first” and to this end it has provided Rs 420 crore of loans to cooperatives, including those run by women. He explained schemes available to women cooperatives, including the new Yuva Sahkar start-up fund which offers credit to women on favorable terms.
NCUI Vice President G H Amin welcomed all participants on the occasion. Dr Simel Esim, Director, ILO Cooperative unit was the key note speaker. She spoke about the experiences of women’s cooperatives in her native Turkey. She lauded SEWA and wished to have such a co-op organization in her own country.
Mr Balu Iyer, Executive Director, of International Cooperative Alliance Asia-Pacific, also shared experiences of women’s cooperatives and those of youth, in the inaugural panel.
The workshop had several experts on financial services, digital economy, marketing and governance along with the grassroots women leaders who spoke of the challenges they faced.
The women leaders concluded the workshop by sharing some of their plans for their growth and development, including using digital platforms for marketing, preparing business plans and obtaining finance from NCDC and obtaining training and hand-holding support through their businesses from SEWA Cooperative Federation.