By Lisa Chan, with additional reporting by Sng Ler Jun
Due to the pandemic, the women committee of the International Cooperative Alliance – Asia and Pacific (ICA-AP) has been meeting one another virtually online. After three years, the committee was finally able to meet in person for the first time at the recent conference, in Quezon City, Manila in the Philippines.
Held from 14th to 16th November, the conference comprised a workshop which shed light on climate change, a statutory meeting for members, and an Office Bearers election. The conference was hosted by the Philippines’ National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO), and saw delegates from different countries, including Singapore’s apex co-operative body Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF) attending the three-day event.
Topics surrounding sustainability, such as climate change and policy surrounding sustainability practices, anchored the conference. On-site visit to a local credit co-operative also showcased the co-operative’s sustainability efforts, highlighting how such efforts build greater rapport and relationship among the community. Beyond the conferences and visits, delegates also had opportunities to mingle with other members.
On the first day, the Women Committee participated in a workshop on climate change. Organised in partnership with NATCCO, the workshop aimed at building the capabilities of women on climate change issues. Participants heard from team members of NATCCO, including Ms Lasalette M. Gumban and Ms Daisybelle M. Cabal, who conducted a training emphasising the role co-operatives play in combating climate change, how women can be a force of action, as well as taught the basics of creating a communication plan for the climate action programme.
In one of the two thematic addresses after the training, Ms Elenida D. Basug, Director of Climate Change Service Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, added that credit co-operatives within the APAC region can consider doling out parametric insurance. Parametric insurance covers pre-specified payouts based upon a trigger event. In the conference context, some disasters that arise from climate change can take the form of hurricanes that affect crops and unprecedented heavy rainfall that causes landslides or flash floods.
SNCF’s delegate Mr Alex Shieh believes that such insurance coverage is innovative and holds potential to benefit the greater community affected by natural disasters and climate change. Mr Shieh, also the department head for “Youth and Women” in SNCF, said: “By using GPS to locate members affected by hurricane or thunderstorm, the credit unions can provide insurance pay-outs automatically and without the need for application.
“By providing services highly relevant to the members and being service oriented, I could understand how credit unions in Philippines play an important role in the community and this is something we (in Singapore) can learn from.”
The visit to credit co-operative San Dionisio Credit Co-operative took place on the second day. It was insightful to hear about what the co-operative had done to help their members during the pandemic. During the field visit, the board of directors were also present to mingle with the delegates.
On the last day, ICA-AP held its statutory meeting and Office Bearers’ election. 12 committee members and nine ICA member organisations participated in the hybrid meeting. These members include the National Cooperative Union of India (NCUI), iCOOP, Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd. (IFFCO), Japanese Consumers' Cooperative Union (JCCU), Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-ZENCHU), Malaysian National Cooperative Movement (ANGKASA), National Cooperative Bank Ltd. (NCBL), NATCCO, and SNCF.
One of the salient pointers from the statutory meeting included the 25th anniversary celebration of the ICA-AP Committee on Women. To commemorate its 25th anniversary, JCCU will organise a special programme in Japan in September 2023. Other key highlights include developing a new Gender Equality Strategy to guide the committee’s work for the next three-four years as well as piloting the Training of Trainers initiative on climate change and action. The training initiative aims to promote awareness of climate change and its solutions for women co-operators so that they and their co-operatives can take action, as well as develop a cadre of trained women co-operators on climate action solutions in the region.
Ms. Chitose Arai (JCCU) was elected as the Chairperson at the General Election. The role as Vice Chairperson went to Ms. Priti Patel.