From the 2nd until the 4th of September, forty women, representing unions from almost twenty different countries, discussed global trends concerning the position of women in the industry and necessary corresponding action by the unions. The main issues discussed where gender-based violence, gender-equality and the pay gap between women and men. The objectives of the conference were to support women in leadership positions, improving the organizing and campaign skills in the union work and to strengthen the global women’s network in order to intensify the BWI’s global campaign for gender equality.
The conference sessions included presentations by the participants on the use of social media to campaign for women’s rights, ways of organizing union campaigns, developing sub-regional networks, how to motivate people to join the unions and ways of being an activist. These were then highlighted by case studies that participants from Ghana, Argentina, Spain and Qatar and other countries presented to show their union’s efforts concerning the topics. A union leader from Spain showed how her union organized a protest for equality at International Women’s Day, where workers and students in more than 100 cities went to the streets to raise awareness and push their agenda towards equality.
At the second day of the conference, two women from North Macedonia and Malaysia shared their mentorship program experience. This is a concept where a more experienced unionist supports a younger member in their development by sharing their knowledge and acting as a teacher. This concept was evaluated positively by the participants who determined that in order to support women in leadership positions, this kind of mentorship program should be institutionalized and supported by the unions in all countries.
Chidi King, the head of the Equality Department in the International Trade Union Confederation, joined the conference via Skype and talked about the latest ILO convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work that was adopted in June 2019 and still has to be ratified by a minimum of two countries in order to be implemented. Rita Schiavi, the chair of the BWI Women’s Committee, invited the participants to support the ratification process in their unions.
The results of the conference were a successful strengthening of the network between women leaders from the various unions, who showed great solidarity amongst each other. The final resolutions included the decision to push the agenda of strengthening the position of women within the sector of construction and woodwork as well as in the unions by the mentorship program, to push the ratification process of the ILO convention and to show strong solidarity in the fight for equality by supporting each other’s campaigns.