The mentorship program joinly organised by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) - Asia Pacific, DGB Bildungswerk (DGB BW) and ASEAN Trade Union Council (ATUC) has unleashed the leadership potential of participating women and youth trade unionists and rekindled the fire of seasoned mentors in improving their practices in trade union work. This is the key takeaway on the recently held monitoring meeting of the project management team and selected participants, affiliates, and union leaders from ITUC and ATUC Philippine affiliates held from 27-28 April 2023 in Quezon City, Philippines.
During the meeting, the participants enthusiastically shared their commitment to the mentorship program, emphasising its role in strengthening local unions through the increased involvement of women and youth trade unionists. By fostering dialogue with union leadership, company representatives, and relevant government agencies, these individuals aim to address specific youth and gender concerns.
The project's current phase was assessed positively in relation to the identified key indicators. Preliminary data suggests that the program is on track to surpass the targets set for the indicators by the end of the year.
The program has provided support for professional growth and facilitated the personal development of the mentees. Many participants have completed their individual development plans, paving the way for setting new goals as the mentorship continues. Likewise, mentors may take on new mentees or adjust their current arrangements based on their circumstances.
One inspiring tale comes from one of the mentees, Kristine Escanillan. As the President of her local union, Kristine encountered significant challenges when they were laid off after obtaining the union’s charter certificate. Despite these setbacks, the mentorship program was crucial to her personal and professional development.
Under her mentor's guidance, Kristine learned essential leadership skills, gained confidence, and improved her communication abilities. Beyond that, she witnessed an overall enhancement of her personality, including her newfound proficiency in public speaking. Engaging in collective bargaining negotiations and acquiring organising skills were additional milestones in her growth.
Kristine expressed her transformation with gratitude, stating, "I have become more active in making a stand. Now, I gained enough knowledge to share in engaging in social dialogue, whereas before, I had zero knowledge about laws on minimum wage and labour standards. Because of the continuous discussions, I can confidently contribute to the discussions whenever I get asked about these topics." She discovered her purpose and found the drive to care for her community through her involvement in union work.
Even seasoned union leaders/mentors like Josefina have benefited immensely from the mentorship program. Josefina shared how the program revitalised her passion for union organising and led to the expansion of their union. Through focus group discussions and the active involvement of mentees, she could address critical unionism and organising topics. The mentees' input helped pinpoint the workers' needs and fostered greater understanding between the union and its members.
The mentorship process has brought about a positive change in communication dynamics with their affiliates. Conversations have become more open, comfortable, and fruitful, creating an environment where mentees feel encouraged to share their thoughts and experiences, engage and initiate conversations.
Concluding the meeting, Cedric R. Bagtas of ATUC highlighted the responsibility of teachers, leaders, and mentors to ensure that their students surpass their accomplishments.
“There should be continuous improvement of the union and its leaders. Better today than yesterday,” he adds. “What is our legacy? What is the legacy of a teacher, of a leader? That is what you will leave behind. You will be remembered by the people you have taught; that is legacy.”