#WomenSpeak: Gender equality and diversity

By Nam Hanna, Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU) 

My life as a woman trade unionist started in 2017 when I decided to work as a carpenter. To hone my skills, I enrolled at a training course that was organised by a trade union. I am now a proud member of that union. Currently, I am a foreperson tasked to supervise skilled workers and manage worksite arrangements. The rest of my team members are union members as well. 

Being a woman in the construction sector is very challenging. I personally experienced prejudice in an industry which does not discuss regularly the issues and challenges faced by women workers at workplaces. Fortunately, my union helped me to persevere and fight for gender equality. My union empowered me as a worker and most importantly, as a woman. Through public relations work, I am now active in changing wrong perceptions about women workers in construction sites and rewriting the narrative of this male-dominated industry.  

Though while there are a lot of positive improvements and victories secured by our union through the years, we still have a long way to go in the struggle for workers’ rights and gender equality. Many construction workplaces are still not gender-responsive. Occupational health and safety are also major concerns. In some worksites, as simple as basic infrastructure for hand washing is lacking. Also, in some sites where I personally worked at, restrooms are placed too far and secluded from workplaces. Women workers find this stressful and unsafe.   

As members of the union, we are now demanding general contractors to build more facilities to protect workers’ health and safety. We are also adding our voices in persuading our parliament to secure more policies that will strengthen occupational health and safety at construction sites.

I believe in and celebrate diversity and pluralism, especially among women workers. I also believe in gender equality. No worker, regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, gender expression and identity, must be deprived of her labour rights and treated unfairly and/or differently from others. This is the equal and better future that I want.  

*#WomenSpeak is a monthly article on gender issues and concerns authored by BWI’s different affiliate women workers. It seeks to provide women workers more spaces and platforms to express their thoughts and concerns on a variety of issues that are important to them as workers and most especially, as women.