#WomenSpeak: There is freedom in a gender-equal future

I am Ekaterina Kislova of the Russian Timber Workers’ Union (RTWU). I joined the union 5 years ago as a communication officer and assistant to the union president. 

While trade union work is challenging, it echoes my civic position. My exposure to the Russian economy’s different sectors made me realize that it is possible to make our lives better by fighting for our rights as workers. My trade union involvement inspires me and validates my personal values. It also gives me the energy and motivation to march forward with my trade union comrades as we struggle for a better future. I don’t think that I would have found myself better than with the trade union movement.

I am a mother raising two daughters. As such, as a woman trade unionist, I am very committed to the struggle for gender equality. I want my kids to enjoy a gender-equal, better future.

In my free time, I devote myself to sports to develop perseverance and discipline. For me, athletics is a great way to relieve stress, clear my mind and recharge after days of challenging trade union work.  

One of the biggest challenges I confront as a woman trade unionist is the lack of knowledge on trade unionism and belief in the power of class unity among my fellow workers. This points to the need for trade unionists to reach out to more unorganized workers and introduce to them the importance of trade unionism and labour rights. Beyond offering to them our services, we need to persuade them that only through our unity can we win a better future for all workers. 

A better and gender-equal future for me means freedom: the freedom to work in safe workplaces that ensure decent wages, the freedom to keep ourselves healthy and safe without sacrificing our wages, the freedom to have time for ourselves to pursue our passions life, and the freedom to enjoy and safeguard our rights as workers.

As we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, women trade unionists have a crucial role to play in our various recovery efforts. We must raise our voices to draw attention to the widening gender pay gap in many industries, which was made worse by COVID-19. This is especially true in the service, retail and tourism industries, where women workers comprise the majority workforce. We must protect women workers from low-paying and unsafe jobs. We must address the increasing surplus of labour in feminized industries due to the rising pandemic-related unemployment and find ways to return to the women workers the jobs they’ve lost to COVID-19. 

*#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.