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Fighting gender inequality and violence in Madagascar

10 March, 2020In Antananarivo the International Women’s Day (IWD) demonstration of Malagasy unions was the culmination of a week of training and capacity building on gender equality and gender-based violence (GBV).

The activities brought together female and male leaders, staff and union representatives from all of IndustriALL’s Malagasy affiliates; SEKRIMA, FISEMA, USAM, and SVS.

The objective was to engage trade unions in combating gender discrimination in the world of work and within their organisations.  Concrete steps were defined to increase women leadership and membership. Women’s structures will be re-activated and better connected to decision making bodies.

A recent study conducted at global level by the UNDP shows that 90 per cent of people are biased against women. Madagascar is not an exception. Century-old cultural and social norms have given a secondary role for Malagasy women, in particular in the public sphere. The belief that men should be the ones leading and talking in public is widely spread.

Discriminatory stereotypes are still prevalent in the union movement in Madagascar. Thus mentoring as well as trainings, are fundamental to build confidence in women and support their participation and representation in unions.

“Mentalities must change in our unions. Men should be ready to leave their seats to women and should accept that they can be represented by women,”

said Armelle Seby IndustriALL gender officer.

Unions in Madagascar are developing efforts to increase women’s participation and representation. USAM set up a national quota of 40 per cent for women’s representation. In 2018, at the Sheritt mine site in Moramanga , Sekrima , SVS and USAM established a mixed gender equality committee which launched an organizing campaign for women and organized training for women on leadership and women's rights. As a result, for the first time two women were elected to the SVS regional executive team. A new local union was established in one of Sheritt sub-contractors with 90 per cent of women members.

“The commitment of trade union leaders, more particularly of male leaders is fundamental if trade unions want to become more inclusive for women in Madagascar. Trade unions should adapt to a changing world of work. They should be able to respond to the needs of women workers who are often more affected by precarious work.”

Paule Ndessomin, IndustriALL Regional Secretary

Malagasy women face discrimination in hiring, glass ceiling and gender pay gap. The lack of wage transparency in many companies favours these inequalities. Unions also reported some cases of violation of maternity leave.

The unions are actively fighting gender based violence. Unions in the mining and garment industries have had to bring several cases of sexual harassment to court. Women in the textile and garment sector in export processing zones are particularly vulnerable. Malagasy unions launched a campaign for the ratification by the government of ILO convention 190. This year on IWD, they demonstrated with a few hundred members in the streets of Antananarivo for the promotion of this new convention.