1.1.3 Women's Contributions to Labour Unions

Project Example:Political and Union-Oriented Program for Women in Argentinia

Although their increasing world-wide rate of employment is also reflected in the growing number of female union members, the decision-making influence of women has not correspondingly increased. Women are hardly existent at the top levels of individual unions, umbrella organizations, and international federations. Although predominantly male unionists respond to this criticism by pointing out the negligible interest that women have shown in union activities and the lack of qualified women, it must be taken into account, that in the past many unions scarcely acknowledged the concerns of women workers. In turn, this dampened the motivation of women to get more involved in union activities.
A few years ago, international labour organizations, such as the ICFTU and the International Trade Secretariats, professed their commitment to womens' promotion and have backed it up by numerous regional and international actions. The FEF could support these measures through on-site activities as national preparation and/or a national follow-up programs. In addition, numerous starting points for the realization of gender-equality in union activities become evident:
The identification of new areas for union activity by paying more attention to women-relevant issues, such as special health and safety regulations, and child-care. A realization of equal pay for equal work is of special importance. It must be made clear to women, that their problems are recognized and that their concerns and suggested solutions are taken seriously.
National and international women's conferences should be held regularly, to facilitate networking among active union members.
In addition, cooperation with those NGO's should be expanded, which pursue the interests of workers.
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Project Example

Political and Union-Oriented Program for Women in Argentina

Womens' promotion measures were introduced into the area of organized labour in 1986 and were complemented by similar activities for women in political parties in 1989.
The overriding aim of the project is the increased participation of women in political parties and unions. Individual project goals include the following:
increasing the qualitative and quantitative presence of women in the discussion and drafting of policies in all political institutions in the sense of institutionalizing a "woman's view" in politics.
civic education for women and the development of their leadership capabilities
more intense contact and the sharing of experience between women engaged in politics
discussion about contemporary issues in the working world (i.e. new forms of labour organization, collective bargaining, measures for increased flexibility)
consolidation of women's groups within individual unions and umbrella organizations
Women who are active in politics and organized labour should participate in this project, especially those women who:
are members of reform-oriented parties in Argentina and the Cono Sur region: They should be especially active in the cause for greater participation of women, and should be familiar with the issues in theory and practice.
are union members, functionaries, delegates, as well as active members of reform- oriented unions

Women who belong to the progressive wing of the Fundacion Karakachoff, which belongs to the UCR, and female members of the Unidad Socialista and other reform-oriented unions are project partners, as well as FOCAI, a group of women union leaders, who since 1989 have joined forces in this forum, independent of their respective unions. Outreach to women in Buenos Aires and in the Provinces is possible through these partners.
To attain the set goals, the most important measure is the organization of seminars on a national and international scale for the different target groups. A high value is placed on the participatory nature of the seminars, as well an on an analytic and plan-oriented style. Seminars held in 1992 dealt with, for instance, the development of strategies for the introduction of quotas for women in the UCR, and a situation analysis with women from the Unidad Socialista on the state of legislation concerning women and family.
The "Foro Cono Sur" provides union women from the southern states of Latin America the opportunity to convene periodically to exchange information and to develop mutual comprehensive action plans. Fora in which women can discuss topical issues such as gender quotas, plans for promotion of women, and the relationship between women and power also take place regularly. One important source of input for such fora are publications which deal with the corresponding issues.
Continuous project work of the FEF helped intensify progress on Womens' promotion in participating institutions, for instance, by providing support for the consolidation of the women's secretariats in the relevant unions.
The most serious obstacles to continuous, issue-oriented activity have been brief, intense events or fluctuations in the political culture due to e.g. elections or changed political alliances. Many politically-active women are simply overburdened by their obligations in various policy areas and decision-making bodies. It is also very difficult to interest young women into becoming active in politics and the labour movement.

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