This brief is part of the Transforming our world: A cooperative 2030 series produced by the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC). Through a series of 17 briefs, one for each Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), COPAC hopes to raise awareness about the significant contributions of cooperative enterprises towards achieving the 2030 Agenda in a sustainable, inclusive and responsible way, and encourage continued support for their efforts. This brief in the series focuses on SDG 5 – achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.
The cooperative model is well-suited to advancing women’s economic participation in three key ways: increasing access to employment and work, enabling economic democracy and agency and boosting leader- ship and management experience.
Cooperatives are spaces where women can create their own work opportunities and overcome economic exclusion. For example, women who earn their living in the informal economy, such as home-based work- ers, domestic workers and waste pickers, often choose to come together through the cooperative model to improve their livelihoods, enhance their access to goods, markets and services (like insurance) and engage in advocacy efforts through their collective voice. In this way, cooperatives have provided a number of pathways for women in the informal economy to transition to the formal economy by stabilizing their incomes and improving their working conditions.
With open membership as a founding principle and equity and solidarity as core values, cooperatives are in- clusive enterprises open to anyone willing and able to become a member and share in the management and profits of the business. Women can overcome the challenges they face as individuals through the cooperative benefits of economies of scale and negotiation power. Through democratic governance, they also serve as spaces where women can engage in decision making and power sharing.