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Unions in the Middle East and North Africa see growing participation of women

8 March, 2017An initiative by the IndustriALL Global Union women’s network in the Middle East and North Africa has lead to growing participation of women in unions, and the emergence of women leaders.

 Women trade unionists met in Tunisia yesterday to celebrate International Women’s Day and to organize to end violence against women at the workplace. A seminar was organized by the IndustriALL women’s network in Tunisia, as well as the national centre Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT), and affiliates of global unions UNI and Public Services International (PSI).

The general secretaries of the UGTT and the Arab Trade Union Confederation, the ITUC’s regional body, addressed the meeting.

Since the launch of the regional women’s network in 2015, and the subsequent creation of national networks in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon, women trade unionists have actively fought to empower women workers and increase their participation in unions.

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Tunisian Code of Personal Status – a progressive set of laws aimed at giving women equal rights - the IndustriALL Tunisia womens’ network, UGTT, UNI and PSI Tunisian affiliates’ women leaders, launched a campaign for better inclusion of women in union decision making structures, under the slogan “Women unionists are efficient leaders”.

In January this year, for the first time in UGTT history, a woman, Naima Hammami, became member of the executive board.

In Morocco, the network motivated the discussion among national centres on draft legislation on gender equality.

This is the culmination of on going work by the women’s network. Women union leaders and members from IndustriALL affiliates have put women’s participation, women’s rights and gender equality issues on the unions’ agenda. A series of workshops on these issues has been conducted in the respective countries since 2014.

Jenny Holdcroft, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, said:

“Because of the creation of the women’s networks, and the work of IndustriALL, we are seeing new women’s leadership emerging in the region. Women are actively coordinating campaigns, and their work is gaining visibility, even at international level.

“Union leadership is taking women’s issues seriously, and more and more women are participating at all levels of the union movement.”

Affiliates are organizing more and more women, and report increasing women’s membership and leadership, especially in industries with many women workers, like textile and garment.

In May, the regional women’s network will meet to evaluate the 2016 violence against women campaign.