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Training future women leaders in South East Asia

24 May, 2016Eighty women workers in Cambodia, Myanmar and Indonesia have been trained in gender equality and leadership skills as part of IndustriALL Global Union’s gender-maternity protection project in South East Asia. 

The training in the cities of Phnom Penh, Yangon and Jakarta from 6-12 May focussed on increasing women in leadership and decision-making positions in union structures; promoting gender-equality at unions and workplaces; and identifying strategies to campaign for improved maternity protection.

The women, who are all leaders and members of unions from IndustriALL affiliates in the three countries, gained better understanding on gender equality and acquired basic skills in leadership particularly in communication, facilitation and dispute settlement. Although the majority of workers in the manufacturing sectors, particularly textile, garments and clothing industries in Cambodia, Myanmar and Indonesia are women, they lack appropriate skills to hold leadership positions and be part of decision-making structures both at federations, unions and workplaces.   

The participants shared their experiences on how they are considered in society - particularly by their male counterparts - in the family, workplace and community. Group activities revealed problems of discrimination, occupational health hazards and harassment. Wage gap, invisibility, heavy work-loads, discrimination in promotion and training, and sexual harassment are some of the issues and concerns raised by the participants.

Priorities for the year include improved maternity protection through legislative proposals; integration in collective bargaining; and lobbying their governments to ratify ILO Convention on Maternity Protection (183). They resolved to increase the number of women in their union membership; increase participation in leadership and decision-making structures, and educate men workers on gender equality. The women also undertook to work towards the attainment of 30 per cent women’s active participation in trade unions.

Elsewhere from 13-14 May 2016, more than thrity women union leaders and members from IndustriALL affiliates in Thailand held a planning workshop aimed at reviewing women’s role and position in union structures. IndustriALL Regional Secretary Annie Adviento gave a presentation on establishing workplace level women committees, while Project Coordinator, Lorna Ferrer, explained IndustriALL’s project on gender-maternity protection project in South East Asia.  Thailand women will be part of the project implementation this year.  The workshop participants came-up with concrete plans on increasing leadership positions in trade unions and identified issues including maternity protection as one of their priority campaigns.