When living under the guidance of a model that defines the rules of human interaction from the angle of the global economy, which gives priority to the individual over the collective, the cooperative philosophy finds itself under constant tension. Given that choice is a practice underpinning the cooperative principle of voluntary membership, such tension challenges us to consciously make our choice on the basis of common goals and mutual help, even though the maelstrom of the neoliberal model is redrawing the concept of choice as individual freedom with such an overwhelming force that is gradually blurring the cooperative culture.
By Verónica Sánchez Olguín, Representative of the Committee for Gender Equality of the National Confederation of Multi-purpose Cooperatives of the Mexican Republic
Countless times, we hear of the interest of members to stay within the cooperative in a contractual sense, replacing the idea of reciprocity; on many occasions, this is due to the structural conditioning that we keep learning and reproducing; thus, everyday practice configures our thinking and our culture. In this sense, the International Cooperative Alliance’s call to opt for the cooperative way is essential to gain access to the choice of equality, not only because of the consequences that inequality creates but also because it is a call to recognize our very essence, to favour horizontal structures where the capability to influence others becomes the way to exercise power. The latter would be expressed as the sum of efforts and will to generate value rather than through an authoritarian exercise that seeks personal benefit given the space it occupies in hierarchical structures; indeed, after all, hierarchy has to be sustained by the morality that extols leaders’ visionary and cooperative attributes.
To recognize and promote the social wealth that characterizes cooperatives, it is necessary to rethink cooperative members’ thought and culture, namely to review our personal stories and identify how we have been constructed, under which conditions and cultural codes we have learnt to become men and women, the lessons from past generations that we represent, and the culture we are inheriting.
Equity entails equality and justice; and in each of these values there is the recognition of difference as an element on which the personal characteristics and the particular conditions of each person lie. Being aware of our own learning process is important because it comes into play in our interaction with others.
The choice in favour of cooperatives linked to the choice for equity has a special meaning that challenges us to move from a subjective ideal to objective practice, while carrying with us our differences, talents and even our doubts and uncertainties, in order to both organize work based on collaboration and build certainty.
We need to promote the discovery of both the individual and the collective will and aspirations; to take over the responsibility of contributing to the generation of a renewed culture oriented towards the improvement of social relations in cooperatives, that strengthen their functioning and allow us to have an impact on regaining identity and enrich our behaviour with practices in which the cooperative philosophy is visible.
The Cooperative Committee for Gender Equality endorses the relational perspective in which women and men assume responsibility for strengthening a culture that allows the configuration of practices of recognition and inclusion of gender in the development of our organizations.
In 2013, Dame Pauline Green, president of the ICA , in her message on the Women’s International Day, expressed that "To build a better world is to allow each person to fully develop their potential", with a sentence that resumes the bid for gender equality in the cooperative context.
Our standpoint is to promote a pedagogical model on gender in which awareness, promotion and training are key to a cultural process involving the social responsibility to carry on the cooperative model; with an impact aimed at enhancing the capacity, organizational structures and social projection with indicators that are specific to cooperative behaviour, in favour of a new personal, family, business and social culture.
About the author: Representative of the Committee for Gender Equality of the National Confederation of Cooperatives in Various Activities of the Mexican Republic, CNC, SC de RL, President of Committee for Equality of México before the CREG, with a ‘Licenciatura’ in Social Work at the UNAM, Master in Education at ETAC and student in the Formation of Human Subjects y Historical Conscience at IPECAL.
International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives
Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037