Over 100 attend Sixth Summit of Cooperatives of the Americas

ASUNCION-The sixth summit of Cooperatives of the Americas brought together over 1,000 delegates to Asunción, Paraguay, to discuss the role of cooperatives in deepening democracy and rebuilding post pandemic.

The summit featured cooperative leaders, representatives from social and solidarity economy organisations, academics and government officials.

Participants discussed a range of issues, from climate change and sustainability to the cooperative identity and the need to increase the movement’s visibility, particularly as a development actor.

Delegates highlighted how cooperatives “have once again shown their enormous capacity for resilience” and argued they should be “strategic allies of governments for social and economic transformation with a strong emphasis on building greater equality and equity, with concrete proposals for changes in the sustainability of production systems, distribution, consumption and financing”.

The summit concluded with the adoption of a declaration, which highlights the role of Cooperatives of the Americas [ACI-Americas] in working to develop strategies to influence public and intergovernmental policies across the region. The document also urges collaboration with those countries “that still have a weak cooperative union” to support a regional strategy to strengthen cooperative education proposals and actions “that capitalise on the best practices that the movement has been able to build”.

The final declaration invites cooperatives “to promote the Sustainable Development Agenda and its specific application in terms of access to environmental information, creation of sustainable food systems and decent work to mitigate the effects of climate change.”

Cooperatives of the Americas (formerly ICA-Americas) represents, supports and links around one hundred entities, including confederations, federations and primary cooperatives in the north, central, south and Caribbean region of the Americas.

Meanwhile Elaben Bhatt, founder and visionary leader of the SEWA movement in India passed away

A ‘gentle revolutionary,’ Elaben led the movement for women’s economic empowerment in India, inspiring many across sectors, governments, and borders. A strong believer in Gandhian values, she firmly believed in the power of organising, uniting women, and building sisterhood and solidarity.

The late Elaben Bhatt (Internet photo).

Born in 1933, Ela Bhatt, or Elaben, as she is called, is widely recognised as Padmabhushan Ela R. Bhatt, a Gandhian. In 1972, Elaben founded the Self-Employed Women’s Association [SEWA], a trade union that has around two million members. She set up SEWA Cooperative Bank in 1974 which today has three million women members. She was nominated by the President to be a member of the Indian Parliament Rajya sabha and subsequently member of the Indian Planning Commission. She founded and served as Chair of Women’s World Banking, [WWB], the International Alliance of Home-based Workers [HomeNet], Street Vendors [StreetNet] and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing, Organizing (WIEGO).

Under Elaben’s able and unique leadership, the SEWA cooperative movement of informal women workers grew to be the largest of its kind in the world. She led the women’s cooperative movement from the front, forging new paths towards an equitable and inclusive world that she deeply believed in, and one that was respectful of the planet.

“Ela Bhatt will remain in history as one of the key cooperative thinkers and pioneers. I am happy that we could all hear her at the ICA 33rd World Cooperative Congress, where her speech was very much listened to and had a strong echo. She has been a strong source of inspiration for decades, I will keep treasuring her memory” has said Bruno Roelants, Director General of the ICA.

She been recognised in India and internationally for her work

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