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Women trade union leaders in South East Asia develop gender equality and advocacy skills

25 August, 2016Training in gender equality and advocacy was held for women trade union leaders in Indonesia and the Philippines. Training is also scheduled for Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.

Forty-one women leaders from IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Indonesia underwent training on gender equality in occupational safety and health (OSH) in Jakarta on 8-9 August 2016. The training aimed to provide women with the skills and knowledge to integrate women’s reproductive and maternal health into workplaces safety and health policies.

Representatives from the ministry of manpower and health were invited to share current OSH legislation that covers women’s safety and health, including maternity benefits. They indicated that they welcome social dialogue with workers, specifically on issues and concerns of women and maternal health.

Group learning exercises such as the identification of women’s and men’s reproductive health hazards at the workplace increased awareness of OSH. Through illustrations and drawings of their own workplaces, they were able to identify actual experiences of OSH hazards. They were also asked to draw a human body where key areas of the body are affected by such hazards.

Through these exercises, women were able to draw out plans and strategies on how to respond to occupational hazards. The inclusion of women or the formation of an OSH team was one of their identified strategies to respond to issues and concerns of women’s OSH. Plans also include initiating dialogue with the health ministry to advocate for improved legislation on maternity protection and to eventually push for the ratification of ILO Convention 183 on Maternity Protection.

In the Philippines, thirty women were trained on advocacy skills. A review of current legislation and international standards related to women was part of the training. Lorna Ferrer, the IndustriALL gender-maternity protection project coordinator, presented updates on the current campaign on gender-equality and maternity protection.

Representatives from network organizations that work on legislative advocacy and ILO ratification processes where invited to share their experiences. Each shared their experiences in supporting and proposing priority legislations and the complex process of ratifying ILO conventions. They encouraged   the women not to stop putting forward their agenda and to expand their networks of advocates to increase pressure to the government.

Participants deepened their understanding on the challenges related to advocacy and campaign activities. Though advocacy work is not simple, the women vowed to work hard and put all their efforts towards the passage of propose legislation to expand maternity protection and ratification of ILO C183 in the country.

They agreed to campaign for a maximum of 120 days and a minimum of 98 days maternity leave, consistent with ILO standards. Campaign planning will be undertaken to refine and firm up plans for the maternity protection campaign.

The training will be delivered in Cambodia and Thailand in September and October. Training on promoting gender equality in trade unions will continue in Myanmar, since more women particularly in the mining sector need to be provided with awareness on gender sensitivity.

Synchronized campaign activities are also planned for the commemoration of World Day for Decent Work on 7 October, with improved maternity protection as the main campaign goal.