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Young workers commit to active participation in transforming trade unions in Botswana

28 July, 2022The youth activist schools are spaces where young workers discuss how they can be catalysts in the transformation of trade unions. Recommendations from the schools have included strategies and tactics on how young workers can be change agents that shape and drive the future of unions.

The second Sub-Saharan Africa IndustriALL Global Union-Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) youth activist school program this year took place in Gaborone, Botswana, 20-23 July. Over 20 young workers participated,11 were women.

The activist school was held in partnership with IndustriALL, FES and the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU). A third session of the will take place in November.

The first school program for 2022 took place in Tanzania, previous schools were held in 13 African countries, before the learning events were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The next activist school programme will take place in South Africa, Kenya and Ghana.

The young workers' list of priorities on transforming unions include strategies to advance the decent work agenda, and the future of work. On advancing workers’ rights, the importance of national labour laws and international labour standards was highlighted.

The participants came from 10 unions that organize in the automotive, diamond, energy, garment and textile, mining, the public sector, and others.

Discussions included knowledge and skills that are needed for young workers to play effective roles in the union. The BFTU highlighted the history, legal frameworks, and the national trade union context, while the Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) presented on effective approaches to collective bargaining. The FES presented engagement and successful negotiations. These sessions explored the collective bargaining culture in Botswana and how to make it more effective. 

There were discussions on international worker solidarity, inclusive social dialogue processes that catered to young women and men and focused on strengthening non-adversarial industrial relations. Feminist approaches to trade union campaigns included discussions on gender equity and equality and developing workplace policies using International Labour Organization Convention 190 on eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work. Gender role plays exposed how women workers had more roles than their male colleagues, and how this impacted on their participation in union activities.

“As young workers we welcome the youth activist school because it offers practical workers education which is key to effective trade unionism. In addition, for unions to stand for fair and just societies, they must be inclusive of young workers in all spheres of union life,”

said Vanessa Nakedi, BFTU youth secretary.

Tumelo Awee, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) added that  

“The activist school challenges us to evaluate and play effective roles as young workers. With the new learning from the activist school, we are now better prepared to engage employers.”

Thilo Schöne, FES Botswana resident representative says: “The youth activist school is an important revival of interactive, union-related and justice-motivated training for young Batswana. I am impressed by the solidarity, dynamism, and motivation of young trade unionists to become more involved in their unions in the future and to work for better working conditions.”

Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa explained that,

“The youth activist schools are a strategy to create a vibrant trade union youth network in Africa that is innovative in using digital tools in union organizing. This network aims to build an activist and learning community that will advocate for social transformation. Additionally, we want the youth network to be a space where young workers will become organisers, negotiators, and gender champions through capacity development and networking.”

The Botswana Diamond Workers Union (BDWU), BMWU, and the Botswana Power Corporation Workers Union (BPCWU) who are affiliated to IndustriALL and the BFTU also participated in the activist school.