Over 20 participants, including leaders, female and young trade unionists, and other representatives from affiliates of the ITUC-Asia Pacific and the ASEAN Trade Union Council (ATUC), gathered via Zoom, on 22 February 2022, to discuss plans for “WaY2GO 2.0: Active Engagement in Leadership Representation and Social Dialogues of Young and Female Trade Unionists in Southeast Asia,” the next phase of a joint project with DGB Bildungswerk Bund (BW).
Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-Asia Pacific, lauded the contributions of affiliates and implementing partners in the pilot project, which had sought to strengthen women and youth leadership within the trade union movement for decent work in Southeast Asia, from 2019 to2021. He noted how it had demonstrated coherent, effective, and sustainable results that would pave the way for the WaY2GO 2.0 project.
“We have the opportunity to utilise this project to challenge longstanding and new inequalities and amplify the voices and power of those who are not fully empowered to speak for themselves,” Yoshida said. “With this follow-up project, though maybe smaller in scope, our ambitions are high. And, with that, so is our commitment to set our movement for concrete goals.”
The ITUC-AP/DGB-BW project comes amid intensifying inequities and biases in workplaces and communities with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Employers used the pandemic to undercut labour standards and workers’ rights. Government agencies are not faithful (in fulfiling) their responsibilities to protect workers’ rights,” said Dom Tuvera, ATUC Coordinator. “So they had to be reminded of collective negotiations and social dialogue as opportunities to get things done.”
Despite constraints due to the pandemic, ITUC-Asia Pacific and ATUC affiliates successfully negotiated collective bargaining agreements in six companies, with enterprise-based mechanisms against violence and harassment.
The WaY2GO project also proved instrumental in instituting various regulations and union structures changes, working to mainstream women and youth advocacy and leadership in the region.
Building on the successes of the project’s previous phase, the WaY2GO 2.0 aims to help women and youth unionists in Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines to reach their full potential as leaders in the trade union movement.
“We will provide the necessary capacity-building so that they can continue to exercise leadership and engage in social dialogue with governments and employers, with leaders of their own unions and organisations, or even within to make things better for women, young people, and everybody,” said Anna Tuvera, Director of ITUC-Asia Pacific’s Gender Equality Activities.
With the ITUC-Asia Pacific at its helm, the project will launch a mentorship programme that will equip trainees with the skills, competencies, and technical know-how for much more engaged leadership representations and social dialogues on youth and gender concerns within their trade unions and elsewhere more broadly.
This three-year phase promises ever more enthusiastic exchanges between Southeast Asian trade unions that are more ambitious and necessary for an equitable world of work for women and youth.
“Our world of work is changing fast, and matching the speed of change calls for new ways of organising, reaching out to women and youth, and invigorating our movement. We are counting everybody in,” Yoshida said.