Women Empowerment : the role of women in Trade Unions
UN CSW63, New York, United Nations
Dear women delegates, dear colleagues,
On behalf of World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which represents 95 million workers in 130 countries of the whole world, we convey you a heartfelt greeting.
It is a great joy and honour to be here today, among women from all over the world. It is also an opportunity for us to take a stand on the massive task of rallying women in trade unions, on the need to empower female workers, the very need to empower women’s voice inside union organizations.
In an international context where workers’ participation in their class organizations tends to decline, where freedom of association is heavily hit, employers want to weaken unions, to take them away any commitment for social justice and liberation unions could assume. All in all, this debate is part of a bigger one which, according to the WFTU, is the very fight for a struggling and demanding international trade union movement; for a trade union movement able to target the covering of workers’ contemporary needs.
Obviously, any such goal for trade unions today wouldn’t be realistic unless we guarantee the active participation of female workers. In other words, unions’ empowerment comes through female workers’ empowerment and vice versa.
Many times, endeavoring to calculate the women participation percentage in trade unions, we note that many details are unclear, some times not even updated or exact. Some other times, female workers’ increase in what some people call “informal economy” doesn’t help for exact calculations. Admittedly, women union membership is far beneath than men union membership, much weaker than this of men.
The problem turns out to be more visible when someone considers that women’s election to leading positions in trade union organizations is particularly low. So, how could a female worker be empowered if she can’t co-decide, co-design the union’s agenda, through key union positions?
In fact, the need to increase women participation in trade unions is getting stronger if we bear in mind the data on popular strata women’s situation across the world. According to the European Union statistical data (Eurostat), two-thirds of the 800 million illiterate people globally today are women. Among
the children that do not attend school, 3 out of 5 are girls. According to the same data, thirty one percent (31%) of working women in Europe are employed in part-time positions. The data also reveal that around one million people annually fall victim to sex trafficking, 900 thousand of whom are women and girls. The conditions for women are extremely bad in all continents. In Africa, AIDS is spreading among the female population, in India around two thousand pregnancies are being prematurely terminated daily, because families wish to have only male offspring. Around ninety percent (90%) of the victims of the armed confrontations and wars are non-combatants, among them the large majority women and children.The data and the numbers speak for themselves.
Unfortunately this catalogue is not short. Nowadays, the “wounds” that a woman must treat are not only unhealed, but they can’t also be healed without her energetic participation. In this respect, a trade union can be a refuge of struggle, a place to be inspired from, a structure that can teach and raise awareness.
This year, the WFTU, not by chance at all, has chosen the following slogan for the 8 March International Working Women Day: “The WFTU against any kind of exclusion, inequality and exploitation”, by showing this way the contemporary claim on the role that unions should play.
The World Federation of Trade Unions, since its foundation, has been firmly struggling for working women’s equality and for the improvement of their position in all areas of their social life. For one more year, we join our voice with the working women and support their demands:
– Decent work and dignity at work
– Equal pay for equal work
– Maternity benefit to all
– Social benefit to all
– Health and safety at the work places!”
The true perspective lies on the struggle for a better life, for wider equality at work, in society and life. So, some demands as the aforementioned ones could reactivate female participation in unions. This could bring more women in the struggle for modern rights, in order to give birth once more to the hope that this world can change.
We just have to assume the responsibility to change it.
Thank you very much.