BWI 4th World Congress: Vote for Change - Vote for Women

12 December 2017 05:24


With the rallying cry of “Vote for Change---Vote for Women,” BWI women delegates united to push for dramatic changes at BWI’s 4th World Congress recently held at the Durban ICC, South Africa.  Throughout the Congress, BWI women leaders aggressively campaigned to increase the representation of women at both the World Council and World Board. 

On Day 1 of the Statutory Session of the BWI World Congress, during the discussion of the proposed changes to the BWI amendments, more than 30 women representing BWI’s five global regions marched and took over the Congress stage, shouting “Vote for Women---Vote for Change.”  As they proceeded to the stage they distributed roses to delegates and members of the BWI Presidium.

Speaking in front of the more than 725 delegates, Fatimah Mohammed, Chair of the International Women’s Committee called on the BWI Congress, “to immediately implement one third women’s representation to the World Board and for the World Board to develop a dynamic plan and road map to achieve the aim of at least 1/3 women’s representation at the World Council and throughout the activities of the BWI.”

As a result, the new-incoming BWI World Board will consist of seven women board members compared to one women board member prior to the 4th World Congress.  Through tenacity and perseverance women now comprise 30% of the World Board. 

The newly elected women board members consist of Gail Cartmail (UNITE the Union-United Kingdom), Justina Jonas (MANUW-Namibia), Kyung Shin Kim (KFCITU-South Korea), Zamaney Menso (FNV-Netherlands), Marta Pujadas, (UOCRA-Argentina), Rita Schiavi (UNIA-Switzerland), and Nicole Simons, (IG BAU-Germany)

In addition to increased representation of women at the BWI World Board, another key success of the World Congress was the convening of the first BWI Global Women Leaders Forum, where over 125 women holding key national and local leadership positions of BWI leaders along with young women delegates and rank-and-file members met to share best practices in organizing women workers, discuss current challenges and possible solutions to ensure gender equality, strategize to train and develop a generation of new women leaders, and to develop concrete recommendations to implement the BWI 2018-2021 Strategic Plan at the regional and global level. 

A panel moderated by Dora Cervantes (IAMAW-United States) consisting of high-level women leaders---Madelene Engman (GS-Sweden), Louisa Jones (First Union-New Zealand, Ulrike Laux (IG-BAU-Germany), Dulcilene de Morais (Marretta-CONTICOM-CUT-Brazil), and Fozert Mugabe (ZCATWU-Zimbabwe)—addressed how they were shaping their unions and playing a leading role in negotiating collective agreements, leading strikes, and advocating for increased women’s participation in their trade union structures.

The Forum also provided an opportunity for young women leaders such as Monica Tepfer (UOCRA-Argentina), Ivana Dimitrova (SGIP-Macedonia) and Ana Rosdiana (UFES-Malaysia) to tell their stories of how the trade unions played an important role in their growth.

Tepfer stressed the important role trade unions have in fighting gender-based violence in the work place. 

Dimitrova stated, “I am proud to stand in front of you as the first engineer in Macedonia to oversee the construction of a major bridge in my country.”  She also highlighted the important role the union played in her growth as a leader in not only at the work place but also in the union. 

Rosdiana bravely shared her story of being sexually harassed at the work place.  She stated, “the union saved me as it made sure that I no longer worked in the same division as my harasser.”

The inspiring stories of these young women coupled with the success achieved by the women leaders at the 4th BWI World Congress truly showed the Amandla! Power of Women!