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IndustriALL women seize the day

10.03.2016

From Guatemala, to Sri Lanka, the United States and Pakistan, IndustriALL Global Union affiliates from around the world made their voices heard on International Women’s Day on 8 March. 

Women trade unionists seized the day to demand better maternity rights, equal pay, and an end to violence and discrimination against women and girls among several issues.

A Women’s Day event by IndustriALL Sri Lankan Council adopted a resolution to improve maternity leave legislation and undertook to campaign until their demands are passed in parliament. The Council also resolved to set up a women’s wing.  

Living wages, social protection and better child care were key issues for textile and garment affiliates in Bangladesh. The country’s dominant garment industry is 80 to 90 per cent women workers.

Exploitation and extremism were outlined as the main hurdles in women’s liberation at large rally in Hyderabad in Pakistan bringing together several trade unions. Nasir Mansoor of IndustriALL Pakistani affiliate, NTUF, told the crowd that women have always played a fundamental role in the worker movement.

Unions at the rally called for all discriminatory laws against women in Pakistan to be abolished. Other demands included legal recognition and rights for home-based women workers, equal pay, an end to underage marriages and trafficking of women and girls, and the criminalization of discrimination against women on the basis of ignorant customs and traditions.

In Cambodia, women from all ten IndustriALL affiliates held simultaneous workplace mobilizations in front of factories in the run up to March 8 with maternity protection as the main banner.

IndustriALL affiliates in South Korea, including FKMTU, FKCU and KNEWU, joined a convention of more than 1,000 participants organized by the Federation of Korean Trade Unions. The women then rallied in support of rights for working women.

In Thailand, IndustriALL affiliates joined a mobilization of hundreds of trade union members. Key themes for 8 March were to stop sexual harassment in the workplace and to end violations against pregnant women.

In the Dominican Republic, IndustriALL affiliates said enough was enough and marched with a call to end violence against women, precarious work, discrimination and impunity.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Guatemalan affiliate FESTRAS marched for a woman’s right to decent work, while in Brazil a month-long programme of activities to empower women trade unionists was launched by FEQUIMFAR.

IndustriALL also supported union action on International Women’s Day in Morocco calling for an end to discrimination against women, as well as activities in Tunisia and Egypt on 8 March.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary and director for Women, Monika Kemperle, was in the United States for the United Steelworkers women’s conference which urged women to step up for their union. An evening march saw more than a thousand conference participants take to the streets of Pittsburgh to demand women’s rights and equal pay.

“It is truly inspiring to see how IndustriALL affiliates are leading the way in pushing for women’s rights in so many countries. IndustriALL campaigns all year long on issues affecting women and women’s rights are becoming mainstreamed into all our activities,” said Kemperle.

“Maternity protection and violence against women have been recurrent themes on International Women’s Day. We have to push for more governments to sign ILO Convention 183 on Maternity Protection, and we must call for zero tolerance to violence. To achieve this we need more women in leadership and decision-making positions.”