Outstanding women - Chile, FETRACOMA : Interview with Ximena Alejandra Vergara Oyarce

08 March 2017 10:09

Union leader, mother and wife. She is thirty-seven years old and since 2012 holds the position of regional director of the National Inter-company Trade Union of Construction, Industrial and Allied Workers (SINTEC), affiliated to the National Federation of Workers in Construction, Wood, Services and Allied Sectors (FETRACOMA) in Northern Chile. 

What does it mean to be a regional director of the Northern Chile area of SINTEC? 

It is a very tense position with a lot of responsibility because we have to be 24 hours pending of taking decisions for the area on issues such as quotas, assemblies’ attendance and meetings with the managers in each construction project where we have representation. We do this kind of work in order to respond to workers’ demands in the course of the projects.

Originally, this work was developed from the central office, but both this position and others in the union were appearing because of the need to decentralize SINTEC’s responsibilities and respond with greater agility to workers’ problems as they arise. 

Do you believe that there are still male chauvinist codes in the construction sector that hinder the advancement of women's leadership at a union level? 

Yes. It still happens. This is why we are working to make a change. As you can understand, this job must be done over time. It is not something short-term. We have to work day by day, both with the headquarters within the companies and workers. The beginning is always difficult but with time, as they get to know my work, things start to get better. 

How do you handle the roles of wife and mother with your work as a union leader? 

It is a difficult question. It has been difficult to bear such an important position and deal with being a wife and mother. However, with a lot of perseverance and acquiring knowledge, I managed to position myself among my coworkers, with the help of people who were fundamental in my development as Jorge Hernández and Cristian Vivar, both directors of SINTEC. All good work has rewards and satisfactions. 

Do you consider that Chile is a country that is advancing on equal opportunities for working women? 

It is work with a slow process. It demands time and this is lacking. We need time to demonstrate with facts how women are inserting themselves in many areas that were previously considered only for men. 

We have to question ourselves how we can become union members, and ensure that we stay in the organizations and not leave it just as a nice attempt that escapes from our hands. I had the opportunity to share information in an activity organized by a group of feminists, and I realized how disorganized we are and how many struggles we have to face in terms of so many demands that currently exist. We still have a lot to do to achieve the same opportunities for our gender.