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Women and young workers in Nepal want inclusive union structures

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3 May, 2024As part of the project, Building Inclusive Unions in South Asia, IndustriALL organized a workshop for young and women workers in Kathmandu on 19-20 and 21-22 April, respectively.

A total of 23 young trade unionists, including twelve young women, participated in the youth workshop. The workshop focused on building young trade unionists’ understanding on organizing as one of the main pillars of trade unions and how to run successful organizing drives. With more youth joining the workforce now, it becomes impertinent that organizing drives focus on young workers. Young workers from various IndustriALL affiliated federations developed action plans to reach out to more young workers and raise awareness on the importance of unionizing and collective bargaining.

The discussion among young unionists also highlighted the use of policy as a tool to promote greater participation and integration of youth in trade union structures which is currently missing. Developing youth policy at union level was identified as an important area of intervention along with increasing representation of young members in the leadership structure.

Jyoti Gurung, a member of IndustriALL’s South Asia youth working group, says:

“Union power will increase multi-fold with more trained young and women workers in union membership as well as in leadership structure, who can effectively build campaigns as well as engage in successful collective bargaining.” 

In the women’s meeting, a total of 25 women leaders participated in the discussion which was mainly focused on climate change and industry 4.0. Women trade unionists shared their experiences in the light of climate change which is leading to mass migration in the country. The uncontrollable rise in migrant workers to cities and industrial areas has led to severe precarious employment issues with very low wages and no social protection cover. There is an increased vulnerability and job security among women workers.

Women leaders also discussed the inclusion and representation of women in trade union structures. During the meeting, women leaders formed a country-level women’s committee and a core women’s committee. Going forward, women leaders will draft the committee’s Terms of Reference.  

Gita Bhandari, secretary of IndustriALL’s affiliate, Whole Industry Trade Union, and also one of the co-chairs of the newly formed women’s core committee, says:

“We are dedicated to working towards increasing women’s participation and representation in trade unions. We will begin by collecting data on number of women employed in our sectors of which many are part of our unions. Thereafter we plan to reach out to more women workers stressing the importance of union building.”

IndustriALL also organized the Nepal council meeting on 20 April, during which the leadership of IndustriALL affiliated unions jointly deliberated on a strategic plan and campaign activities for the country. They unanimously agreed to campaign for freedom of association and social protection for all workers, recognizing the significant challenge posed by precarious workers, including migrant workers, in Nepal. Additionally, with the aim of fostering inclusive union structures, they resolved to establish women and youth committees and integrate them into the council structure.