Building alliances to promote women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

Intervention of Moradeke Abiodun-Badru, Member of The National Association of Nurses and Midwives of Nigeria, part of PSI's delegation at CSW61 in the High-level interactive dialogue among Ministers on the priority theme; Building alliances to promote women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

Trade unions recognize that quality public education, affordable health care, child protection, child care, aged care, maternity protection, support for the disabled, minimum living wages and active labour market programs are among the hallmarks of dignified societies.

Collective bargaining, is an important instrument to both address equal pay, but also all other provisions needed for women to be able to enter and stay in the labour market. Without freedom of association, and recognition of unions, there can be no collective bargaining.

In Australia collective bargaining coverage has improved women’s access to paid maternity leave. Australian unions have also been at the forefront in negotiating paid leave for women experiencing intimate partner violence, enabling women in many cases to both keep their jobs and take the necessary action to escape violent relationships.

In the United Kingdom, the wages of women union members are on average 30% higher than those of non-unionised women.

In Tanzania and Kenya, trade union organising activities have raised awareness amongst women working in flower and sisal farms, in the hotel industry and in export processing zones that violence is not part of the job. This has resulted in increased reporting of incidents of gender based-violence (including sexual harassment and coercion) and trade union negotiated policies to prevent and address GBV

Today’s globalised economy has brought with it neoliberal economic policies, which encourages  privatization and flexible labour markets, jobs are more and more precarious, and the right to form or join trade unions, to organize and collectively bargain the terms and conditions of employment are actively discouraged – sometimes through legislation; often through the use of threats and physical force. This is more challenging because of the diminishing space for civil and labour rights, especially the right to Freedom of association and the right to strike. Lack of decent work opportunities accompanied by the retrenchment, privatization and outsourcing of public services has increased pressure on women.

Women’s economic empowerment is central to the realization of gender equality and women’s rights. Its achievement will not only increase the power of women to shape economic policies and make and act on economic decisions but also provide voice, choice and control in other areas of life. Women’s economic empowerment (WEE) must be understood as far more than women’s ability to compete equally in existing markets, or than the beneficial outputs of their contribution to growth; it should include women’s access to and control over economic resources, access to decent work, control over their own time and meaningful participation in economic decision making at all levels from the household to international institutions. This means building women’s capacity and autonomy to exercise real power and control over their own lives, and strengthening the terms on which they engage with social and economic structures. It means women organizing themselves for change – and governments respecting, protecting and fulfilling their right to do so.

Through collective bargaining, trade unions are contributing to policy formulation at global, national and regional level. Trade union bargained collective agreements and changes to national laws and policy have extended social protection to millions of women, including women working in the informal economy and migrant women; enhanced maternity protection; Child care, recognition of unpaid care work, quotas for women in terms of representation – including in parliament and board rooms, example of Iceland that introduced obligation of companies to ensure equal pay.

The use of quota systems in the trade union has brought about positive trends in women’s participation in unions, in particular in leadership positions, have led to a wider inclusion of gender issues in trade unions’ action. Within the trade union movement women's addressing discrimination means dealing with exploitation at large.


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