Dear co-operators, dear partners,
My name is Monique Leroux and I am President of the International Co-operative Alliance.
Today we celebrate Women’s Day.
Women’s day was originally called International Working Women’s Day.
Work, and I mean decent work, is central to the original idea of women’s day.
Co-operatives provide women with a workplace to develop their potential.
A place where their participation is warranted by the co-operative values and principles.
The theme of 2016 Women’s Day, is “step it up for gender equality”.
It is part of the United Nations’ Planet 50/50 program for gender equality.
It is a call on citizens and governments, to step it up, and take action.
The Alliance is enthusiastic about the United Nations 50/50 program.
The UN have made equality a full part of the sustainable development goals.
This is because equal chances for women are part of the solution to achieve global, sustainable growth.
Co-operatives are a powerful lever to create these equal opportunities,
because co-operatives are based on self help, participation, education and inclusion.
Co-operatives are schools of emancipation.
Indeed, by voting and voicing their opinion, women learn to take charge.
But, to take charge, women need access to finance. And, again, co-operatives provide accessible financial services.
Financial co-operatives and mutuals serve the world’s most remote regions, where big business doesn’t have franchises.
Work opportunity and conditions for women have improved over the decades.
But considerable distance remains to be covered.
As we face major global challenges, and to build a better world, we need the full engagement of ALL co-operators.
We need YOU, co-operators, to free the potential of women, economically, and politically.
Communities where men and women participate in a balanced way, are more resilient, more thriving, and more human.
I thank you, dear co-operators, all over the world, for promoting equality.
Make continued education for women a priority in your co-operative.
Educate on democracy by encouraging women to engage and to vote.
Make access to education for women and girls a priority.
As president of the co-operative movement, businesses based on the principle of equality, I call on you, co-operators, to take action, to close the gender gap, and to build a better world.
Now is the time to Step It Up!