Following its 23rd Virtual Women’s Committee Meeting last 26 April 2022, the ITUC-Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP) envisions targeted initiatives to further align gender equality programming with the organisation’s broader priorities and activities in 2022. The Committee vows to build on the momentum gained in building women’s leadership and the ongoing campaign to #RatifyC190, among other calls, to raise the profile, voice, and visibility of underrepresented groups of women in the trade union movement and elsewhere.
Yoshiko Norimatsu, who was recently unanimously elected Chair of the Women’s Committee, facilitated the meeting. ““I do hope that all the members of the Committee will continue to work towards solutions to various challenges faced by our fellow sisters in the region,” she said.
In a conversation with ITUC-AP General Secretary Shoya Yoshida, Paola Simonetti, Director of the Equality Department at the ITUC, reflected on the lessons from the past year and the insights on how affiliates should build workers’ power with gender equality and inclusion at the core of trade union actions.
“We have quite a significant representation of women within the trade union movement, but there’s still a little bit of a narrow avenue for women in leadership in our movement,” Simonetti said. “We need to give women opportunities to present themselves as strong leaders at all levels. … We really need to have more women at collective bargaining tables and in social dialogue.”
The pandemic and its attendant crises have only further shrunk democratic spaces and, notably, avenues to include more women in decision-making processes within trade unions and wider corridors of power.
In the face of new constraints on workers’ rights, Yoshida described the trade union movement, two years into the pandemic, as “struggling, but with big potential.” Earlier in his opening remarks, he had cited a myriad of new challenges to realising peace, democracy, and rights, especially for women and other underrepresented groups most vulnerable to global shifts in the post-pandemic world of work.
“Despite the crackdown on trade unions in the region, workers are not giving up,” he said. “Throughout history, trade unions have been fighting for the right to unionise and social justice for all.”
In 2022, the ITUC-AP will continue to work with its affiliates and partners to replicate exemplary efforts in organising women and strengthening their representation and leadership.
Local trade unions have made steady strides in implementing gender equality initiatives at the national level. Members of the Committee shared significant women-led actions and developments in Israel, Turkey, India, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Fiji, Samoa, Australia, and New Zealand, among other countries.
These country-level efforts go a long way toward strengthening the ITUC-AP’s work on gender equality. Anna Tuvera, Director of ITUC-AP’s Gender Equality Activities, presented a high-level review of the proposed activities slated for this year, including the WaY2GO 2.0, the second phase of the joint project with the DGB Bildungswerk Bund (BW) to advance the engagement of women and young trade unionists in leadership representations and social dialogues.
Another main advocacy target this year is to clinch broader support for the International Labour Organization Convention 190 (C190), the first international treaty focused on eliminating violence and harassment in the workplace. With the end goal of enjoining national governments and legislative bodies to embrace C190, the ITUC-AP will start securing additional ratifications of the Convention in pilot countries (Bangladesh, India, Mongolia, India, and Pakistan). ITUC-AP affiliates also look forward to launching sub-regional and national #RatifyC190 campaigns and days of action.
In addition, the ITUC-AP will launch #InvestInCare campaigns (Pakistan and the Philippines) alongside a union toolkit, to be piloted in collaboration with the ASEAN Trade Union Council (ATUC), on campaigning for domestic workers’ rights in at least two migration corridors in Southeast Asia.
Through these activities, the ITUC-AP hopes to count everybody in, as is the overarching goal of its year-wide campaign to address the impacts of interlinked forms of discrimination. “We will bring everybody in, particularly women who have been disadvantaged or excluded from the trade union movement, so we’re looking at people with disabilities, women from racialised communities, all those sectors that have not been reached out to traditionally by trade unions,” Tuvera said.
Women are instrumental in shaping the future of work, after all. As Yoshida pointed out in his opening remarks, now is as good a time to negotiate and deliver a new social contract for genuine people-centred development. “All stakeholders should take responsibility for building a just and equitable future of work and ensure greater investment in people’s capability and decent job creation,” he added.