Around 30 women representatives from IndustriALL Global Union’s Turkish affiliates gathered in Istanbul on 7 March 2019 to discuss further cooperation among themselves to address the need to attract women to join, participate and take leading positons in their unions.
This activity was part of the IndustriALL Turkey Women Network formed in 2015 with the political and logistical support provided by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).
“Gender equality remains a problem all over the world despite all the efforts developed. New approaches are needed,” said IndustriALL gender coordinator Armelle Seby in the meeting. “Gender equality is not a women’s issue, it is a fundamental trade union issue. Gender perspective is integrated in every section of our work and an increased participation of women is the main aim of this meeting.”
During the meeting, the participants made detailed analysis over the obstacles for increasing women’s participation in their unions and industrial sectors organized by IndustriALL in general. The main issues highlighted by the participants were women’s unemployment, violence and harassment against women at work, and lack of women participation and representation in their unions.
The women representatives acknowledged the further difficulties for women to access to the labour market in Turkey compared to men. The unemployment rate, at between 10 to 12 per cent, remains high in the country, and despite the high percentage of well-educated women. They are still more affected by unemployment than men because of social and cultural reasons. Namely the delegates listed the following:
- Discrimination by employers at the time of recruitment;
- Women are more likely to bear the responsibility for looking after children and elderly people in the family;
- Male members in the family may not allow women to work.
Violence and harassment against women at work continues to be an issue of serious concern in Turkey. The silence of the problems by the women themselves does not help to step out of this vicious circle. Low level of awareness about their rights in many workplaces does little to decrease violence and harassment. The union activists recognized the need to raise awareness about this issue in their workplaces.
Further work needs to be done to improve and implement gender equality wording in the union constitutions or statutes. Unions should encourage male leaders to get engaged on the issue of women’s representation. It should indeed become a priority. Local meetings need to be organized at a more practical time for women workers to enable them to attend. It was also highlighted that, in order to organize more women members, the unions should really train more women organizers. The experience shows that, especially in female dominated sectors, unions managed to attract many more women workers when the organizers were women.
There was a consensus to continue the work of the network. The participants agreed on the fact that there was a need to meet on a regular base once or twice a year. It was further agreed that the unions can work individually on some common and identified issues. One of these would be to tackle the problem of violence against women as a priority issue.
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