Gender equality and cooperatives in countries of Latin America

The cooperative sector in Latin America has subscribed to the commitment of gender equality, providing a vision of the cooperative movement linked to human and social responsibility towards its workers, according to Verónica Sánchez Olguín, the Gender Equality Representative of the National Cooperative Federation of Diverse Activities of the Republic of Mexico, in her paper: “Gender equality in Mexico and Latin America from the point of view of the development of cooperatives.” This recently-published study shows the gender perspective in Latin America, and acknowledges how the asymmetrical way it is perceived, experienced and valued has in store some windows of opportunities closely connected to the philosophy of the cooperative movement.

21 July 2014

By the National Cooperative Federation of Diverse Activities of the Republic of Mexico

By creating of Regional Committee for Gender Equality (CREG) which, through the slogan: “Without equality there is no development”, is seeking to promote and represent the interests of those cooperative members who believe gender equality is pivotal and affects all areas of development in a cross-cutting manner. In 2010 the CREG did a study on the state-of-play of gender equality with the participation of 68 member organisations from different sectors in Latin America. This study highlighted how cooperatives are organised in working groups where predominantly men occupy managerial and representative positions whereas the presence of women is felt at a lower level, generally in administrative and educational activities.

Moreover, one can ascertain the following facts when revising of the gender equality activity which some cooperative organisations of CREG member countries are encouraging, as shown in the Cooperative Forum of the Americas in 2013:

• Argentina: with the Cooperar Committee, Argentina is working on a Women’s Training School, on developing study circles and on the planning of broader action in search of a greater impact.

• Honduras: the country is encouraging the creation of a committee and a law that will enable women’s voices to be heard in the Congress.

• The Dominican Republic is undertaking activities related to the fight against violence towards women, violence within the family, the consolidation of a Gender committee and helping female farming professionals, the creation of hospitals and visiting girls experiencing a situation of violence.

• Colombia: COOMEVA is driving the approval of a gender equality policy for its cooperatives, in addition to organising events for women entrepreneurs, the contribution of micro-credit, raising venture capital and business coaching.


The above demonstrates that the focus is on the gender perspective with respect to the presence and manner of participation of women and men in the cooperative sector, but what lies behind these structures and types of cooperative organisation when it comes to gender equality?

In discussions on organisation it is argued that opportunities exist and that access channels are unhindered. Experts refer to the drive towards positive action generating better conditions on their behalf. Nevertheless, women choose not to seize these opportunities. This leads us to the following question: What is stopping gender equality from being a reality?

The daily reality shows us a different angle from which to view things, where the belief systems that shape us women and men assign certain characteristics to our system of relations that take account of the culture that accompanies us in our life experiences and therefore our cooperative experiences.

It is necessary to show the complexity of how we women and men were shaped as subjects, what the framework that has given structure and organisation to our cooperative being is like so as to understand and strengthen vital experiences that enable us to build new forms of relations and co-creation from integral parts that are inherent to our being and configure our subjectivity, such as: femininity, masculinity, motherhood, fatherhood, the exercise of rights and power and gender violence related to our manner of working together in environments that are underpinned by cooperative values.

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Service Producers' Cooperatives

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