Reaching out to women
THE first national economic transformation cooperatives' association to be driven by women is to be launched in Johannesburg on Thursday.
The South African Women's Business Council of Cooperatives (SAWBCC) aims to unite efforts by a variety of cooperatives that have up to now worked in isolation and yet addressing a common objective to maximise economic benefits for women in business.
Ann Ngutshane, president of the council, which was inaugurated earlier this year, says the intention of the organisation is to use the launch event as another way to reach out to more women's cooperatives and those women who wish to work as a collective to overcome the immense challenges facing women entrepreneurs in the world and in South Africa.
"After Sunday World published an article about the SAWBCC earlier this year, we received calls from a number of people, especially from other provinces, wanting to join forces with the organisation," says Ngutshane.
"We found that these are women who have been working in cooperatives for over five years.
"They are happy that finally women will have not only an economic voice but a home as well. In view of this positive feedback the leadership of the SAWBCC believes we should share our vision, mission and objectives.
"Our objectives directly respond to a baseline report that was compiled by DTI in 2007. Our objectives also respond to the current economic status that is still owned by white capital. In bringing a home and voice for women cooperators, the organisation will seek to address three strategic issues:
direct economic benefits for women;
economic transformation by our very nature - that of belonging to the black majority; and
economic transformation in terms of addressing gender gaps between women and men at large.
Ngutshane says another issue to be dealt with is the role of women-owned cooperatives in a capitalist system.
She says the government's approach to the second phase of economic transition and industrialisation is a mixed economy, "meaning that it has to be set aside for individual players and especially for cooperators due to our social form of ownership".
She says the voice and home that established for women cooperators will unite women as cooperatives are fragmented. The organisation will especially be the voice that will create mobility to build primary cooperatives to secondary and tertiary levels.
Most cooperatives in SA play at the primary level and thus have little impact on the general GDP, says Ngutshane.
"We are proud of the fact that as an apex, we formed the body ourselves, meaning that we are aligned with one of the seven cooperative principles of autonomy.
"We have conjured a high level plan of member mobilisation. This includes conducting a feasibility study regarding status and appropriate models that must create sustainability, vibrancy and implementation of the economic models that have made cooperatives successful across the globe.
"The SAWBCC will be making a strong call on government and business to be ready to partner with us in delivering this body that is critical to South Africa's reindustrialisation process."