20 years after the Beijing Declaration on women’s economic rights and independence women still face economic inequality in many parts of the world. On 26 and 27 July 2015, IndustriALL Global Union organized leadership training for women together with the Central Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar (CTUM).
Pregnancy rights are a concern in Myanmar where maternity pay is only 70 percent of the salary. Participants told how they do not receive all benefits provided by law, which is the minimum standard.
IndustriALL assistant Monika Kemperle underlined the importance of strengthening women’s self-confidence:
Even though maternity leave may be regulated in law, legislation is not always enforced in practice and sometimes there is a difference in how men and women are treated.
Women from IndustriALL affiliates in Myanmar, the Mining Workers’ Federation of Myanmar and the Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar, participated. Deputy Minister of Labor He Daw Win Maw Tun and Maung Maung, president of CTUM, opened the meeting.
The women worked in groups on body mapping, workplace mapping and leadership skills. All three groups found similar phenomena. Women’s eyes were sore because they had to focus in bad lighting. They were faced with loud noise and had often earache; some even went so far as to suffer from loss of hearing. Some women carry heavy loads, which results in arm and shoulder pain and sore neck and back. Sometimes they fall in the factory. Gynecological problems are not uncommon.
The extensive overtime and insufficient breaks result in a number of conditions. Sometimes the women have migraines, their eyes are worn out. They can have nosebleed, coughing. Not enough time to go to the toilet can cause renal problems. Sometimes women faint, probably from exhaustion. Necks hurt because of the intense concentration and bad posture.
Women in the mining sector perform welding, which is tough on the eyes. It is a noisy environment and accidents occur. Breathing in the particles sometimes result in respiratory diseases. Women want regular medical check-ups.
Women at the meeting committed to taking actions over the next six months:
- Organize grassroots women’s committee
- Increase union membership
- Establish township level women’s committee
- Address the issue of job opportunities for women