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ITUC holds women’s organizing assembly in Dakar

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28 November, 2013From 19 to 21 November 2013 the ITUC held its second world women’s conference which was actually an organizing assembly. It took place in Dakar, Senegal. The point was to shift the global agenda by organizing women, to make the most of women’s organized power to turn the global situation of inequality around.

To tackle gender inequality and injustice in the world of work, unions need to organize women around their priorities and aspirations, ensure they get into leadership and recruit many more young women. To provide for unions’ growth women can take the organizations beyond their traditional fields of recruitment such as the informal economy and precarious work and non-standard employment. Women leaders ensure women’s issues are reflected in unions’ activities, in bargaining agendas and in policy demands. Mentoring younger sisters is essential to take them from membership to grow into leadership. The ITUC campaign on women’s leadership is called COUNT US IN!

The Count us In! campaign engages unions to bring about change to bring more women into leadership positions and to make concerted efforts to organize more women in unions. The reasons behind the campaign are the following:

  • Far more women are likely to join a union as members, activists and leaders when unions reflect gender diversity in their leadership
  • By promoting women leaders, unions gain capacity to build workers’ power and to win better rights for all workers
  • Acknowledging and valuing women’s leadership capacities is an investment in democracy and the strength of our movement
  • More women in leadership enhance the ability of unions to reach out, to organize and to mobilize more women members and activists
  • By promoting women leaders, unions become more representative of the work force in their respective countries.

The ITUC also has a campaign called Decisions for Life which is geared to young women. Trade unions need to become more responsive to young women and to take their needs to heart. Getting a job, securing a permanent contract, earning a living wage, starting a family, becoming an activist are all challenges that need to be taken seriously by trade unions. Social media can also be used as a mobilization tool. Through this campaign women are meant to feel more confident about taking decisions and standing up for their rights at work and playing a more prominent role.

The conference had sessions on the informal economy, HIV-AIDS and violence. The importance of organizing women around HIV-AIDS was stressed. Especially women in communities can be reached by this type of work.

In connection with violence the session focused on the proposal under discussion at the ILO to adopt a Convention on gender-based violence. A majority of government members on the ILO Governing Body need to be persuaded to support the adoption of such an instrument. Such a convention would address the sexual harassment, violence, threats and bullying which are still commonplace on the job. The enforcement of adequate laws is essential for preventing gender-based violence at work. An ILO convention could cover a definition of gender-based violence at work, provisions to prevent the violence, measures to protect and support workers affected by the violence and a description of the groups most affected by gender-based violence, namely LGBT, indigenous and migrant workers, workers living with HIV/AIDS and disabilities and people trapped in forced and child labor. Ministries and members of the ILO Governing Body should be contacted to push for such a convention.

At the conclusion of the ITUC conference the Senegalese Family Minister committed to ratifying ILO Convention 183 on maternity protection in the near future.