Celebrating Women in Co-operatives for International Women’s Day
Published 14 Mar 2019
The Midcounties Co-operative celebrated International Women’s Day (8th March) with an event at the Black Country Living Museum, honouring women that have influenced the co-operative movement throughout history.
The ‘Women in Co-operation’ event saw women from all over the country gather to celebrate what it means to be a woman in co-operatives and find ways to collaborate to inspire future generations.
It celebrated the work of the Bloxwich Women’s Guild, a group that was founded in 1883 and played a vital role in establishing The Co-operative Movement. Doreen Shaw, aged 95, who served as the Guild’s President for over 30 years, was guest of honour at the event.
Former Bloxwich Women’s Guild secretary Edna Marshall also joined a range of influential women from co-operatives in delivering speeches, including Co-operative Heritage Specialist Anne Ransome and Young Co-operators Daisy Clifford and Emily Sandilands. They each discussed the influential role of women in co-operatives, from the 19th Century to the trailblazers of today.
Olivia Birch, Director at The Midcounties Co-operative, outlined why it’s important for The Society to have a balance of men and women sitting on its board and spoke about the importance of gender balance in promoting businesses and mitigating risk.
Fairtrade Fortnight (25th February – 10th March) was also high on the agenda at the event as the Fairtrade Foundation’s annual awareness campaign coincided with International Women’s Day. The campaign, ‘She Deserves’, aims to help women in developing countries such as the Côte D’Ivoire and Guatemala earn more than 74p a day, which is currently the average daily wage.
One of the attendees at the event was Jennie Simpson, who earlier this year won a trip of lifetime to visit a Fairtrade coffee farm in Guatemala and witnessed first-hand how purchasing Fairtrade products supports the lives of farmers in developing countries. A video of Jennie’s experience was shown at the event, which provided insight and sparked conversation around how the co-operative movement supports women across the global supply chain.
Speaking about the event, Jennie said: “The Women in Co-operation day brought together women from across the country with a shared commitment to co-operative values including democracy and equality. Everyone learnt important lessons on both the movement throughout history but also what else can be done to support women across the supply chain.
“The presentation on Fairtrade and the ‘She Deserves’ campaign was particularly thought-provoking. Since returning from Guatemala, I’ve been doing everything I can to encourage people to choose Fairtrade, so I was proud to see the video from the trip feature as part of the event.”
Tarra Simmons, General Manager Co-operative Social Responsibility, said: “We organised the Women in Co-operation event because we wanted to show our support for International Women’s Day and celebrate the hundreds of women that have made Co-operative movement what it is today.
“There was a strong feeling of solidarity on the day and we’d like to say a big thank you to all of our speakers that helped to make the day a success.”
A co-operative differs from other business models as it is owned exclusively by its members meaning that members have a say in how it’s run, and the local community can benefit from any profits.