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African women rise for gender equality

11 October, 2019African women, rise! This was the slogan of the IndustriALL Global Union Sub Saharan Africa women's regional executive, which met on 10 October in in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The meeting brings together women union leaders from across the subcontinent.

The meeting was opened by regional secretary Paule Ndessomin, who encouraged women to maintain the momentum of the work that had been done. A major part of the discussion focused on the adoption of ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment by the 2019 International Labour Conference.

Mwila Chigaga, a gender expert from the International Labour Organization, said that the Convention is a global mandate to end violence and harassment in the world of work, but warned that the adoption is not the victory: the work starts now. She reminded participants that the Convention needs to be ratified by at least two countries to come into force, and encouraged them to ensure that these are African countries.

“We can't celebrate now. We can celebrate when the Convention is ratified and implemented.”

Mwila Chigaga

“We can't celebrate now. We can celebrate when the Convention is ratified and implemented,”

she said.

“We should primarily see C190 as an international labour standard on gender equality, and see it the context of other conventions: C100 on Equal Pay, C111 on Discrimination, C156 on Workers with Family Responsibilities, C183 on Maternity Protection and C189 on Domestic Work.

“Many of these have not been ratified and implemented. Let's not forget them while we celebrate C190.”

IndustriALL gender coordinator Armelle Seby said,

“Unions have to mobilize and push for ratification. But unions do not need to wait: they should use this instrument to change the lives of workers now. This new instrument is a key tool for trade unions to advance non-discrimination and equality, and fight against gender-based violence in the world of work.”

"I am a gender champion."

Rose Omamo

Rose Omamo introduced herself by saying

“I am the general secretary of the Almagamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers, and I am a gender champion.”

Both Chigaga and Omamo spoke about the need to take the work of gender equality out of the womens’ structure and use male allies to mainstream it in the union.

Chigaga said,

“We need women in leadership positions in unions. But we also need to ensure that the men who are elected are gender champions and feminists.”

There was a discussion about making a practical difference in the workplace, and participants shared that violence and harassment is commonplace.

“As women, we need to have each other's backs,” said one participant. “Sisterhood works.”

Tendai Makanza of the IndustriALL regional office urged affiliates to use the tools that we have, especially the Pledge.

“We hope to start a young feminist movement for the region.”

Lydia Nkopane chaired a session which formed the regional women's committee, as follows:

  • Chair: Lydia Nkopane
  • Deputy chair: Harriet Nganzi Mugambwa
  • Secretary: Oluchi Amaogu
  • Deputy secretary: Olga Kabalu
  • Treasurer: Maclanta Mbala

Additional members:

  • Faith Lanyero
  • Regina Nambahu
  • Bridget Nambule