Women Show their Power in Trade Unions

Participants at the European Regional Women's Conference in Sarajevo.

On 6-7 September, over 80 women from 21 countries around Europe came together in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to discuss trade union strategies to ensure gender equality and fight against gender based-violence and campaign towards pay equity.

The BWI European Regional Women’s Conference started with an opening panel on how trade unions and community organizations are working to stop gender-based violence at the workplace and in overall society. 

“For a long time, trade unions did not recognize gender-based violence as a trade union issue, but today, as a result of strong activism from women, unions are joining the call to  fight against all forms of sexual harassment and discrimination at work and in the community,” said Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary of UNITE the Union and one of seven women in the BWI World Board.

One of the key objectives of the conference was to discuss the gender convergence of the BWI 2018-2021 Strategic Plan, adopted at BWI’s congress last year in Durban, South Africa.  

“The strategic plan includes gender equality but it is important to ensure that there are gender dimensions in all areas of BWI’s work and policies,” stated Rita Schiavi, Chair of both the European Regional Women’s Committee and the International Women’s Committee.  

She added, “We also need to continue the Value Women’s Work Campaign focusing on organizing women into trade unions and empower women to take leadership positions within their unions.” 

The conference concluded with a commitment by the participants to work with their union to increase women trade union membership by 10%, outreach to young women into trade unions and promote women in leadership positions. In addition, there was an emphasis on the need to include women in collective bargaining teams and incorporate gender clauses in agreements.   The conference also reiterated the need to continue to campaign for gender equality and campaigns and stop gender-based violence with the goal to improve working conditions for women. 

“The Conference demonstrated true power of women in trade unions. We believe that our fight for gender equality is the fight for better life and better society for everyone,” concluded Rita Schiavi. 

The conference was hosted by the Independent Trade Union of Forestry, Wood Processing and Paper of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SSSPDPBIH) whose President Lejla Catic welcomed the conference participants.