Around one third of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives (UN 2015). As a group, women work as much as men, if not more. UN figures show that when both paid and unpaid work such as household chores and caring for children are taken into account, women work longer hours than men – an average of 30 minutes a day longer in developed countries and 50 minutes longer in developing countries.
Construction work remains a highly male-dominated sector. Despite increases in the participation of women in the construction industry over the years, equal opportunities have yet not been achieved and women are employed as part of the family work unit, often without receiving direct payment (ILO 2015:11). Data cited by the ILO in 2015 reports that in North America, 2 per cent of construction workers are women (which denotes the share of women workers out of all workers in the construction industry), in Western Europe the same figure reaches 1 per cent while in Latin America women in construction represent 0.5 per cent. There are no data available for Africa while Asia shows the higher participation reaching 7.5% of women in construction work and much of the work is informal.
In light of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, BWI recognizes the challenges that women face at the workplace in its represented sectors, and as a Global Union it has developed a comprehensive approach centered around three key elements:
1. A Policy for gender equality, focusing on:
i. Organizing for visibility, which includes organizing workers in specific areas with a high concentration of women; the provision of a support system to promote women’s involvement in union activities, and recognizing the importance of women’s caucuses and spaces to integrate them and discuss particular gender issues.
ii. Education for empowerment, which includes participation in education and training activities with gender tools. The BWI has adopted a policy of a minimum of 30 per cent women participation in all BWI activities; therefore, this should act as a floor with the aim to raise the participation levels of women.
iii. Campaign for equality, which includes equality issues in collective bargaining, sexual harassment, health and safety, equal pay, maternity protection, social security and protection, vocational training for women and the recognition of women’s struggle for equality.
2. Sexual harassment Policy. The ‘No to sexual harassment’ leaflet was produced to raise awareness of what sexual harassment means and how it affects the dignity of workers. It also establishes a mechanism to raise complaints in which trade union representatives are involved in order to carry out a formal complaint when necessary.
3. Gender Audit Toolkit (GAT). The GAT was developed at the regional level (and ultimately scaled up) as a tool to map, examine and identify areas for gender-fair union intervention. It is also a tool to assess how the organization (in particular trade unions) incorporates needs of women workers, and it allows to identify priorities for improvement and to measure progress towards gender-based targets.
BWI’s comprehensive approach also extends its gender focus to its campaigns and International Framework Agreements. Recently, the Argentine affiliate UOCRA joined forces with the movement ‘NI UNA MENOS’ against femicides and gender violence. In 2016, NI UNA MENOS consolidated as a social movement expanding to other countries in Latin America. The BWI will continue to support the work of its affiliates to eradicate violence against women and reach gender equality as one of the key pillars conducive to Decent Work.