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Union leaders from Latin America discuss how to stop gender-based violence

21 September, 2022On 13 September, more than 80 union leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean came together online to discuss their role in IndustriALL's campaign to eliminate gender-based violence in the workplace and in unions.

Armelle Seby, IndustriALL Global Union’s gender director, spoke about the IndustriALL’s campaign to stop gender-based violence, explaining that the campaign recognizes that no other union goal – such as decent work, safe workplaces and equal pay – can be achieved without first bringing an end to gender-based violence.

She added that securing the commitment and support of male union leaders was a key part of the campaign:

"We need the support of both men and women leaders if we are to end gender-based violence. ILO Convention 190 on violence and harassment came about in large part because of the remarkable leadership and vision of women union leaders around the world.

“But men also have a key role to play as agents of change. They can help to change patriarchal systems and ensure that relevant trade union policies and strategies are adopted. With our campaign, we must continue to build on the inspiring examples we have seen of women and men who are committed to ending gender-based violence."

Laura Carter, IndustriALL's assistant regional secretary and regional gender officer, said that, as part of the campaign, IndustriALL was also running a series of regional workshops on gender-based violence.

"The aim is for those who attended the workshops to become vectors of change in their organizations and workplaces and for them to help develop policies on ending gender-based violence in their unions. So far, we have trained 90 workers, including 20 men, in the region,"

said Carter.

Union leaders shared their experiences of successful union initiatives and discussed strategies to end gender-based violence in the workplace and within the union movement.

They heard, for instance, from Jayson Little,USW Canada, who participated in a union training programme called "be more than a bystander", which taught men what to do if they witness gender-based violence.

Marta Zaldaña, who works in the textile sector in El Salvador, spoke about her experience of harassment and reporting it to her union. She said that previously unions did not know what to do in such cases, but now they have updated their regulations, developed policies and begun providing training on how to respond in order to stop violence and harassment within unions.

Igor Díaz, from Colombia’s mining sector, spoke about various instances of harassment at his company. In these cases, the union had intervened; it had also reformed its regulations and now had a women’s department to deal with these issues.

Christine Olivier, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, said:

"The fight against inequality and gender-based violence is a fundamental part of our work, and, as a global union, IndustriALL has a responsibility to take action.

“We have to do more than simply condemn such violence – we have to use all of the resources available to us. In our workplaces, communities and trade unions, we all have to protect women's rights, take action and be part of the fight. In 2017, we made the commitment to fight gender-based violence – we now have to implement the action plan to make that happen.”