Philippines: Celebrating Women in the Building Trades – Commending Women in the Union

Outreach and recruiting women workers in the construction industry in the Philippines is difficult and challenging. As the sector is male dominated, women do not enter the field unless they have no other choice. 

But the Philippines is increasing its numbers of women welders. Recently the National Union of Building and Construction Workers (NUBCW) invited a group of women welders from the USA to come to the Philippines to share their organizing experiences. 

“The first round of organising is like a roller coaster. There are times that there are lots of women present in the activities, other times, they will not show up, especially when their contracts ended. Strategies need to be adjusted from project site concentration of recruiting to community-based organising,” says Teresita Borgonos, BWI’s project coordinator in the Philippines. 

“I almost gave up because of these challenges. But after attneding the BWI Global Women’s Conference in Nepal, I felt the synergy again. Those sisters are really amazing, their experiences moved me. I think this is what we meant the power of sisterhood,” said Mary Jane Vargas, organzier for the NUBCW. 

After the conference, a series of organising meetings were conducted with a lot of discussions on organising strategies. Some members of the core group helped in building more contacts and awareness raising on unionism through study group sessions. 

The recent meeting of the core group took place on October 3 and aimed at re-establishing the Association of Women Workers in the Construction Industry (AWWCI), a local affiliate of NUBCW, and to include the group of these women welders. The group decided to have a General Assembly on November 6 prior to the NUBCW Congress. AWWCI will revitalise itself to be more relevant to women workers in the construction industry. Elections of the new leadership will be carried out and they will propose action plan for gender at the NUBCW Congress. 

“It took me sometimes before I decided to work together with AWWCI on this initiatives. It’s been part of my passion to help and these support women from the start of their training in welding until they landed in a job. But this is the only time I realised that I can be more effective if I work in a group. More heads and hands are better than one, so challenges accepted,” said IreneFederoso Mendoza, one of the leaders of the women welders. 

The BWI Asia Pacific Region Project Coordinator is the main resource person on this meeting. She discussed BWI, the importance of global solidarity and its stake in organising women workers. She also highlighted the importance and benefits of unionism to workers. The meeting ended with a group picture of support to the CUB campaign of ETU.

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