Empowering Women Through Labour Rights
Brief summary of presentation of information made
United Methodist Women Globally:
- Build livelihood through cooperatives and income generation
- Scholarships for further education
- Address debt, trade policies that undermine rights of women
- Supports migrant domestic workers organising in Africa and Asia.
Session consists of Stories of empowerment through labour rights, each panelist shared their story:
Sophorn Yang – Cambodian, came to the city for work, saw the horrible conditions and decided to start fighting for their rights. The first factory was for the production of wood. A female worker was killed due to poor conditions and did not receive any compensation. Employers look for profit, not for the benefit of the workers.
Native American. Lives on a reservation in New Mexico, Arizona. Most employment is livelihood/agriculture. There is in an increase of Fracking by mining companies. These companies generate employment, but they have no sustainability plan on exit – meaning that the community is left with a host of problems including alcoholism, family violence and poor mental health. Survivor of child and domestic violence – uses her experience to educate the community and the women who are experiencing violence.
Alzira –Born and works in Mozambique. Women are not represented at all levels of decision making , and not in the political or public arena. – this is because of social roles and the role of women in the home. Adult literacy program and income generation projects.
Regina – Zimbabwe has policies for equal pay in the workplace, however there remain organisations that force employees to sign confidentiality agreements not to disclose their salaries. Disclosing your salary is a dismissible offence. STEM Science, technology, engineering and maths field remains a male dominated area and a higher paying sector. As long as women remain excluded from these high paying industries women will continue to earn less. Women’s jobs being encroached by technology. Equip women with the right skills – training women in technology. Where mentored and supported by a corporate. See [https://www.elcanah.org/about-us]
Experienced living with a partner who controlled all of the money. When he died, she was not working and not skilled. She had no knowledge. Used mothers instincts of needing to feed her children and picked up piecemeal work doing house jobs. Experienced the support of United Methodist through scholarship support. Went back to community and formed a group to help other women who are vulnerable.
Questions and further panel explanation:
Q. How can labour conditions be challenged and changed:
Minimum wage fighting in Cambodia: 2014 there were mass demonstrations, before that it was reviewed every 5 years, after demonstrations it is reviewed annually along with an increase of wages. The UN supported the government to make policy changes: highlights the importance of mobilisation alongside UN level action.
Q. How to encourage workers to join the union and keep membership? Many people come from other place, factory is not always close by.
First thing is to start conversation with workers to understand the root causes of their problems. People also need to understand the power of organisation and what can be solved – provide examples. Manage expectations – this is not a short term solution – this is a long term battle. Need to understand that it is also not just about them, but the collective good. Union is important for change, but it is only a PART of the solution. Workers need to understand that they are a large part of the solution.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
- The importance of survivor movements and encouraging survivor voices and initiatives
- Can we partner more effectively with organisations that could guide and mentor our project work in majority world countries
- “Empower a women and you empower a nation”.