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Tanzanian union addresses gender-based violence in textile and garment factories

29 July, 2021A few months ago, when shop stewards from the IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Tanzania Union of Industrial and Commercial Workers (TUICO), visited the Sunflag Tanzania textile and garment factories, they were shocked by the cases they heard from workers of gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH).

During the visit, the union learnt from workers that supervisors were targeting young women workers for sexual harassment leading to stressful conditions that affected performance. To bring this to an end, TUICO organized a five-day conference, 22-26 July, at Sunflag in Arusha to sensitize workers on how to stop GBHV at the factories.

The conference was attended by 101 participants, of whom 53 were women. The training programme emphasized that workers’ rights were protected by national labour laws, and international labour standards. These included the rights to maternity protection which were the most violated as workers were denied maternity leave.

Discussions emphasized the importance of the International Labour Organization Convention 190 on eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work, as one of the tools to fight GBVH. The workshop discussions and group work defined forms of harassment that included inappropriate language, gender discrimination, threats, and inappropriate jokes. Further, C190 and Recommendation 206 broadened the world of work to include hotels where meetings took place, changing areas at workplaces, training venues, marketplaces and during travelling to work.

TUICO is campaigning for the ratification of C190 by Tanzania. In Sub Saharan Africa the convention has been ratified by Namibia, Mauritius, and Somalia.

TUICO says it has set up mechanisms for reporting GBVH which includes encouraging affected workers to inform their colleagues, report at the union branch office at the workplace, investigations by the gender desk, reporting to the police, and taking the matter to courts or for mediation.

“It is powerful to talk to workers about sexual harassment and gender-based violence. We are expecting big changes to be made at this factory so that the grievances by workers are addressed. The union targeted this factory after receiving reports of abuses. We met with workers, forepersons, supervisors, heads of units and departments of Sunflag,”

said Maria Bange, TUICO’s head of women, the disabled, occupational health and safety and the environment.

Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa says:

“Sensitizing workers to demand their rights and demand workplaces free of GBVH is important especially in the garment factories where sexual harassment is common. IndustriALL will support TUICO to extend the training and awareness campaigns to other manufacturing sectors.”

The conference was held with support from the IndustriALL regional office for Sub Saharan Africa and the NITO project. NITO is a Norwegian trade union organization for engineers and technicians and supports IndustriALL Tanzanian affiliates through an organizing project that addresses gender, youth and union building efforts.