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African women stand up for better conditions

26 April, 201636 women delegates from IndustriALL affiliates in Sub-Saharan region gathered in Accra, Ghana to discuss challenges faced by women of the region and the ways to overcome them.

The delegates welcome the 40 per cent quota adopted by the world women committee of IndustriALL last year and resolved that only united can they find a solution to their problems.

Addressing the participants of the meeting Issa Aremu, IndustriALL executive committee member representing affiliates of the region underlined the importance of women work and said, “women's issues are not only problems of the women, these are trade union problems and will be supported by the whole organization.”

Monika Kemperle, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, focused on the IndustriALL maternity protection campaign and health and safety.

In particular, Kemperle raised the issue of the specific health and safety needs of women workers’,  which are different from men's. Referring to the women of the region,  she stressed their need to have a better job protection during pregnancy. No pregnancy testing should be allowed by employers, and they should be prevented from discriminating against women, or making them redundant based on their pregnancy. On the other side, employers should arrange the transfer of pregnant women to lighter jobs.

According to numerous reports of the participants, they have the opposite experience with employers in their countries. Women often do not want to report their pregnancy because of the fear of losing their job or being downgraded as useless. Some reported that employers in the region try to undermine existing collective labour agreements by decreasing time for maternity leave or not providing breastfeeding women with adequate facilities.

Some unions in the region already negotiate introduction of clauses on maternity protection into their collective agreements, but more work is to be done to promote ratification of the relevant ILO Convention 183. So far there are only 31 countries, which ratified the Convention out of 187 ILO member states.

Kemperle also insisted that employers must pay more attention to stress and psychosocial health effects faced by women. Paid maternity leave should not be subject of abuse by men, and different types of families should be taken into account. Fathers need to take their part of responsibilities to allow women to get at least some relief from their double burden between work and house tasks.

Unions in the region should do more work for women on HIV/AIDS prevention and workers must take their part of responsibility for maternity by attending clinics. A lot more enlightening work regarding HIV/AIDS needs to be done to fight prejudices and stigmatization of the disease, which impedes attempts to address the problem in a proper way.

The issue of violence and sexual harassment remains very important and needs to be addressed on a systematic basis. Women in male-dominated jobs usually have a good education, but still have to fight with gender-based prejudices.

The participants resolved that in order to tackle the problems raised, special anti-harassment training should be introduced through union networks, collective and global framework agreements. Also IndustriALL should lead a permanent fight against violence against women.

At the end of the meeting the participants discussed a concrete action plan and strategy paper on how to tackle the issues raised. With the support of IndustriALL, women activists of the Sub-Saharan region will:

  • organize training in health and safety,
  • encourage enlightenment work on HIV/AIDS,
  • promote the ratification of ILO Convention 183,
  • negotiate inclusion of maternity related matters into CBAs,
  • organize and take an active participation in different action days regarding occupational health and safety, violence against women, precarious work, and more.

At the same time unions of the region will implement the 40 per cent quota, and build a communication exchange platform.