#WomenSpeak: Inspiring women to fight for a gender-equal future

I am Hilly Shamulele and I am a trade unionist. I joined the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers’ Union (MANWU) in 2007 and rose from the ranks as a shop steward, BEC member and a member of the union’s financial committee. In 2020, I was elected as the Vice President of MANWU. 

I am a single mother to my two daughters. Outside of my union work, I love to spend time reading, writing and engaging in sports. 

I am working in the construction industry for the last 15 years and I can attest to the inequality and unfair treatment suffered by women and migrant workers in many workplaces. I noticed that women and migrant workers are treated differently and unfairly. For example, women workers are not compensated the same as their male counterparts despite doing the exact job. 

This points to the negative gendered stereotypes and patriarchal structures that are prevalent in many workplaces. Thus, as a women rights advocate and trade union leader, I try my best to involve government and industry stakeholders in our efforts to achieve gender equality and find amicable solutions to the prevailing challenges. This includes promoting gender policies in our collective bargaining and recognition agreements.

We must also aspire for an equal and better future. There should be no unfair division between men and women in workplaces. Workers regardless of gender must enjoy fair and decent wages, equal opportunities and benefits, and healthy and safe workplaces, among others. 

In this struggle, women workers play a crucial role, especially in the working people’s recovery from multiple crises such as COVID-19, wars and authoritarianism. We need more women workers in decision-making positions, and they must be capitated and given the power to make real decisions. It is important to reach out to young people and educate them about gender equality and gender rights. We must train them early and mentor them as our future trade union leaders.

Lastly, as women trade unionists, we want to inspire and educate more women and men to join the trade union movement.  We intend to achieve this through hard work, dedication, perseverance, and persistence. 

#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.