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Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment at CCA

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CCA's Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Strategy

The Canadian Co-operative Association is committed to promoting sustainable livelihoods through co-operative development. Active, equitable participation of members - both women and men - is necessary for sustainable co-operative development. Active participation in the co-operative context means that members are involved in all functions of co-operatives including planning, decision- making finance and management. Co-operative values are ones of self-help, mutual responsibility, equality and equity, but these values do not
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automatically translate into gender equality. Neither does providing equal opportunity for women lead to equally beneficial results. The differential impact of development initiatives on men and women must be acknowledged. CCA programming focuses on providing women with equal access to all decision-making levels within the co-operative as well as identifying and addressing constraints that undermine their access to opportunities. The co-operative system must address the disproportionate burden the cycle of poverty places on women.

Co-operatives are an effective tool to bring women into the formal economy vis-à-vis the employment and economic opportunities they create. As democratic agents of social mobilization, co-operatives also play a role in the healthy, gender-inclusive development of communities and societies. The involvement of women in the economic function of agricultural co-operatives results in a more integrated production of food and cash crops enhancing food security. Involving more women in co-operative ventures broadens the scope and expands its social role. Women are often more concerned with social development issues such as employment, health, the environment and children. Women participating in co-operative movements become agents of social change, improving the socio-economic situation of their families and communities.

Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Strategy
CCA supports specific efforts that target gender equity issues, as well as integrated efforts that ensure CCA's programming goals, objectives and delivery mechanisms fully reflect women's abilities, practical needs, strategic interests and level of participation. CCA will ensure that an institutional commitment exists for achieving gender equality; a continuing commitment to pursue gender equality objectives and the continuing evolution of approaches based on experience.

CCA will address gender equality and women's empowerment at three levels:
1. Promoting women's empowerment and leadership in decision-making processes;
2. Ensuring equitable access to and control over the resources and benefits of co-operative development;
3. Providing gender responsive capacity building for partners and co-operative networks.

This document is to be considered with reference to other CCA objectives and statements of practice. Gender Equality objectives should be planned and actualized to be consistent with other sectoral and cross-cutting themes in CCA.

Key Principles:
CCA's policy on gender equality is rooted in the following principles:

1. Gender Equality is essential to co-operative development. The co-operative principles of voluntary and open membership, democratic member control and member economic participation require that women and men are equally represented, have equal access to and control of the economic benefits of cooperation regardless of social restrictions.

2. Gender Equality is not just a women's issue, it concerns and affects women and men, boys and girls. Partnerships between men and women are fundamental to achieving gender equality.

3. Achieving Gender Equality means recognizing differential impact. Effective programming examines the underlying sources of inequality and takes into account population heterogeneity.

4. Equal treatment is not sufficient - Gender Equality means improving potential. Equal treatment is insufficient as men and women will have different experiences due to existing societal structures such as gender roles, access to resources and opportunities.

5. Measuring the impact of development means measuring empowerment. Assessing impact is more than simply percentages and numbers of women and men participating but is a measure of control, participation, access and improved position in the community.

6. Promote and support human rights through social mobilization and involvement. Mobilize men & women, boys & girls through education, advocacy and awareness building. .

7. Equal participation and representation of women is fundamental to achieving gender equality. In order for the co-operative movement to be an agent for change the full and equal participation of women and men is required.

8. Strengthen commitments to gender equality through partnerships. Increase knowledge networks around issues of gender through partnership with local women's organizations and other groups working for gender equality.

9. CCA's commitment to gender equality strengthens all sectors of programming. As one of CCA's four cross-cutting themes, gender equality is integrated into all programming sectors. CCA will ensure that all of its programming is planned using sound gender analysis, while respecting human rights, and addressing gender inequalities that stand in the way of co-operative development.

Implications of Key principles:

• Approach to gender equality is institutionally based and systematic (eg. reflected in decision processes, knowledge/skills of staff, operational manuals, availability of expertise, budget allocations, partnerships with women's organizations) CCA commits to do a gender audit of the organization on a bi-annual basis to measure results.

• CCA commits to allocate human and financial resources to ensure that gender is adequately addressed. There is capacity within the CCA staff and board in terms of gender and that capacity is supported by an institutional structure designed to address gender inequities.

• There is a continuing evolution of approaches with regards to gender as determined by experience. These would include documenting lessons learned, best practices and networking partnerships.

• Measurement of results - CCA does well-focused work on creating realistic, verifiable and meaningful gender indicators specific to each sector. CCA policy is in line with results and that those results are tracked and assessed. Always make treatment of gender equality in specific thematic areas explicit in reports. Clear guidelines are in place and both quantitative and qualitative indicators are tracked and assessed. Collect comparable baseline data for comparing projects against indicators and over time.

• Develop mechanisms for accountability and resource tracking on gender mainstreaming. Have clear lines of accountability among staff and partners with regards to gender mainstreaming, time bound reporting requirements.

• Gender analysis is a component of all project initiatives completed during the design phase. Sex specific projects must consider the nature of relations and potential points of intervention for men to contribute. The analysis should also examine opportunities, entry points, potential conflicts and power struggles between men and women.

• Build gender competence (e.g. ability to carry out a basic gender analysis and planning) It is a requirement for all technical, programming, project and managerial staff. Included clearly in generic job descriptions and competency assessments. Provide opportunities for staff to learn about gender analysis and planning and these be provided in an accessible and time-bound manner.

• Institutionalize Gender focal points. To provide support the Gender Committee and the Gender Coordinator will guarantee to: coordinate collective work on gender indicators; stimulate further policy analysis work on gender equality; continue the Gender analysis process and follow-up on analysis already undertaken; assist in training and developing materials; prepare a compendium of good practices on gender mainstreaming and manage in-house gender resources.

• Network with other organizations (government, NGOs, etc) around gender issues that are appropriate and support the project goals.

Gender Definitions:

Gender Equality. Gender equality requires equal enjoyment by women and men of socially-valued goods, opportunities, resources and rewards. Gender equality does not mean that men and women become the same, but that their opportunities and life chances are equal. The emphasis on gender equality and women's empowerment does not presume a particular model of gender equality for all societies and cultures, but reflects a concern that women and men have equal opportunities to make choices about what gender equality means and work in partnership to achieve it. Because of current disparities, equal treatment of women and men is insufficient as a strategy for gender equality. Equal treatment in the context of inequalities can mean the perpetuation of disparities. Achieving gender equality will require changes in institutional practices and social relations through which disparities are reinforced and sustained. It also requires a strong voice for women in shaping their societies.

Gender Equity. Gender equity is the process of being fair to women and men. To ensure fairness, measures must often be available to compensate for historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on a level playing field. Equity leads to equality.

Gender-Neutral. Gender-neutral programs are not specifically aimed at either men or women and are assumed to affect both sexes equally. However, they may actually be gender-blind.

Gender-blindness. means ignoring the different socially determined roles, responsibilities and capabilities of men and women. Gender-blind policies are based on information derived from men's activities and/or assume those affected by the policy have the same (male) needs and interests.

Gender Analysis. Gender analysis refers to the variety of methods used to understand the relationships between men and women, their access to resources, their activities, and the constraints they face relative to each other. Gender analysis provides information that recognizes that gender, and its relationship with race, ethnicity, culture, class, age, disability, and/or other status, is important in understanding the different patterns of involvement, behaviour and activities that women and men have in economic, social and legal structures.

Gender analysis is an essential element of socio-economic analysis. A comprehensive socio-economic analysis would take into account gender relations, as gender is a factor in all social and economic relations. An analysis of gender relations provides information on the different conditions that women and men face, and the different effects that policies and programs may have on them because of their situations. Such information can inform and improve policies and programs, and is essential in ensuring that the different needs of both women and men are met.

At the local level, gender analysis makes visible the varied roles women, men, girls and boys play in the family, in the community, and in economic, legal and political structures. A gender perspective focuses on the reasons for the current division of responsibilities and benefits and their effect on the distribution of rewards and incentives.

Resources. Resources are means and goods, including those that are economic (household income) or productive (land, equipment, tools, work, credit); political (capability for leadership, information and organization); and time.

Access. Access to resources implies that women are able to use and benefit from specific resources (material, financial, human, social, political, etc).

Control. Control over resources implies that women can obtain access to a resource as and can also make decisions about the use of that resource. For example, control over land means that women can access land (use it), can own land (can be the legal title-holders), and can make decisions about whether to sell or rent the land.

Benefits. Economic, social, political and psychological retributions derived from the utilization of resources, including the satisfaction of both practical needs (food, housing) and strategic interests (education and training, political power)

Equal Participation. making full use of women's and men's visions, competencies and potential.

Empowerment is about people - both men and women - taking control of their lives; setting their own agendas, gaining skills, building self-confidence, solving problems and developing self-reliance. It is not only a collective, social, and political process, but an individual one as well - and it is not only a process but an outcome too.

Outsiders can not empower women only women can empower themselves to make choices or to speak out on their own behalf. However institutions, including international cooperation agencies, can support processes that increase women's self confidence, develop their self-reliance, and help them set their own agendas.

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