“Strengthening woman co-ops” takes off to a grand start

The two day national workshop aimed at strengthening women cooperatives took off to a grand start in the presence of several top-notch women cooperators coming from various states on Tuesday at NCUI’s Auditorium in Delhi.

The NCUI auditorium which usually hosts cooperative conferences had a different kind of buzz as underlined by SEWA Chairperson Mirai Chatterjee; “ When women control the affairs you notice a difference; do you not feel a different kind of buzz in and outside the auditorium”, she said which was endorsed by regulars at co-operative events in town.

It was all women show with even the camera person recording the proceedings a woman- not a common sight. As women from different cultural backgrounds had come dressed in their respective colorful attires, the spectacle was representative of pan-India.

The Workshop was also different in many ways. Desperation to reach out to women cooperators and help them in whatever way it was possible, was to be seen among NCDC and NCUI leadership. As Vasudha Mishra-MD of NCDC and the prime mover of the Workshop said “we need results as by the end of the workshop I would like you to give us your proposals here and now; those of you who cannot, should do it on return home.”

Welcoming the guests Vasudha narrated the idea behind the workshop. In our General Council meeting we have always felt that though we are ready with all kinds of help- financial as well as skill development we somehow fail to reach out to the needy.

We are ready to lend you all kinds of help. If you have the issue of design or infrastructure or finance or marketing- you name it we are going to see how best can we help you, Vasudha promised.

Appreciating SEWA Chairperson Mirai Chatterjee, Vasudha said the idea to call 200 woman cooperators representing about 100 woman cooperatives was first proposed by her. In her welcome address Vasudha also publicly acknowledged Union Minister Radha Mohan Singh’s keen interest in the workshop. The Minister has always felt NCDC is not able to serve in the manner it should and hence the workshop, Mrs Mishra added.

Foreign-educated Mirai Chatterjee , Chairperson of SEWA traced the growth of SEWA and talked about the Israel visit of Ela Bhatt in seventies where she felt that networking through cooperatives should be part of the union. “We started off with just 30 woman cooperatives in Gujarat which has grown into a 100 plus network of women cooperatives active in various kinds of economic activities”, Mrs Chatterjee underlined.

She also listed a few steps such as increasing the visibility and number of woman cooperatives, growth of leadership among woman cooperators, opportunity to meet and learn from each other. By holding regular board meetings, keeping minutes of meeting and getting our accounts audited regularly we women can prove that we can do it better, she thundered amidst applause from woman participants.

“The Cooperative movement is laboratory of democracy. We look forward to some solid recommendations from this workshop which would strengthen the woman cooperative movement in the country”, she concluded.

Another noteworthy woman cooperator and a Padmashree awardee Jaya Arunachalam also spoke on the occasion detailing various activities Working Women Forum undertakes in the southern states.

This workshop is just the beginning and many more will follow to help us realize the goal of cooperative doyen Vaikunthbhai Mehta in the long run, Arunachalam said.

The Chief Guest on the occasion NCUI President Chandra Pal conceded that workshop like this takes place rarely and assured woman cooperators present on the occasion that they have the support of the cooperative movement of India. “I on behalf of the cooperative movement welcome you all and we would try our level best to help you. The Minister is coming tomorrow and we would take up your issue before him also”, Yadav assured.

Chandra Pal said besides increasing the number of woman cooperatives we should also simultaneously try to have more women in the boards.

Some of the delegates such as Archana Singh from Bihar and Kamala Rai from Sikkim were encouraged to express their expectations from the workshop.

NCUI Chief Executive N Satyanarayan proposed a vote of thanks while NCDC Joint MD D N Thakur oversaw the monitoring of the Workshop along with MD Vasudha Mishra.

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