At the beginning of December Amanda made the train journey down to Cardiff to the Women’s Challenge event held in Tramshed Tech, co-hosted by the Wales Co-operative Centre.

The event is part of a series of social and networking events organised by the College in partnership with Co-ops UK and Co-op News, with the aim of getting women in the movement together to share stories, advice and inspiration as well as having some fun together. After our initial event in Manchester in the summer, we’ve been talking to women in co-operatives about what form they’d like the Co-operative Women’s Challenge to take next, and taking these events to other places around the UK was a high priority so that we could get as many women involved as possible. Nibbles, a glass of wine and conversation were bubbling along nicely and flowed into some introductions to the Women’s Challenge, some history around how the movement has promoted and supported women.


The speakers...

Our first guest speaker, Karen Wilkie, Deputy General Secretary of the Co-operative Party talked about how important politics are to co-operation and vice versa, and why we need more women from the movement to engage with politics so that important changes on issues that matter to women, and therefore wider society, can become more of a focus. She gave the example of divorce law reform and of the white poppy campaign. She also showed an inspiring film about the history of the Co-operative Party which had been made to celebrate its centenary.

Our second speaker, Allison Soroko, Head of Engagement and Ownership at Merthyr Valleys Homes, talked about how her career has started on the shop floor of a factory, but it wasn’t until she started working in a co-operative she realised how important it was to be working somewhere that matched her own values and sense of social responsibility. She gave us a background on Merthyr Valley Homes, a mutual housing association, and how it has been really successful in creating gender balance in their structure as they have at least a 50/50 split or more on their board. It has also been really successful in engaging the community, both through local residents and workers, in reinvigorating Merthyr and bring people together. After an informal Q&A, we enjoyed more relaxed networking and a chance to find out more about each other.

Next steps...

The Wales Co-operative Centre team said they would definitely put on more of these type of events, so we look forward to hearing more in 2018! You can read more about the background of the Co-operative Women's Challenge here.