Nandini Azad, president of the Chennai-based Indian Cooperative Network for Women (ICNW), has been elected to the board of the International Raiffeisen Union (IRU), one of the oldest cooperative bodies in the world responsible for evolving a global policy on cooperatives in agriculture and other allied sectors.
This is Azad’s second stint at the IRU; in 2018, she got elected to the IRU, becoming the first Indian as well as the first woman to be appointed to the assignment. Initiated in 1981, the ICNW is the first women’s cooperative in South India for, by, and of poor women. It facilitates access to credit, providing opportunities to learn new skills, and securing employment for women.
The ICNW is active in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, with a membership of over six lakh poor women in the informal sector, and has facilitated 1.7 million loans across 14 Indian cities.
Azad said their members are involved in 276 occupations (trading, production, services, manufacturing).
The IRU is built upon the foundational ideas of Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, widely regarded as the ‘Father of Cooperatives’. With 53 member organisations spanning 33 countries, including Switzerland, Austria, France, Netherlands, Kenya, and India, the IRU plays a pivotal role in advancing cooperative ideals and practices on a global scale.
Azad has previously worked in organisations such as the Planning Commission and in multilateral agencies such as the Asian Development Bank and the International Labour Organisation. Initially, she was a special invitee to the Raiffeisen Board on gender diversity and played a key role in championing the cause of greater inclusion and representation of women in the cooperative sector.
“With a career spanning three decades, Azad has consistently made significant contributions to fields such as gender equality, cooperatives, poverty alleviation, development and financial inclusion,” an IRU statement said recently, announcing Azad’s re-election.