There’s a progressive force worldwide today, maybe the only one: it is the force of women. It is a creative force that generates value and energy, too often considered complimentary, even ancillary.
A force that wants and must be valued, which should act as the protagonist of the role it plays and represents in all segments of society, starting from labour and unions.
Every day, in every part of the planet, women struggle against marginalization and prejudices deeply rooted in society, which are the basis of economic inequality, intolerable discrimination and unacceptable violence.
Men are the predominant voice in politics, in economy and in the society at large. In the last two years, however, we’ve been going through a real revolution, started in the United States: women begun to rise up against the newly established government, the harassment and violence in the world of entertainment, politics and economy, with the #MeToo movement.
A long wave that has rebounded throughout the rest of the world, still far from being strong enough to stop this rooted and complex social plague. The impact of gender-based violence on life, at work, on families and in societies is devastating and multifaceted.
It must be confronted with determination on all possible fronts. For this reason, at the International Labor Conference 2019, the ITUC must support with full conviction and strength the adoption of an ILO Convention, accompanied by a Recommendation, on violence and harassment in the world of work.
Women take action or are under attack, in this sorrowful global political phase, with a general strategic tendency to reduce the areas of women’s freedom already severely tested by informal work, by the difficulty of access and stay in the labor market, by dequalified and unpaid work, from the mortifying and unbearable gender pay gap. In too many countries motherhood, voluntary interruption of pregnancy and the possibility to freely manage women’s life cycle are also under attack.
These are direct attacks against women’s freedom of expression. When women’s liberty and rights are challenged, it is the very heart of democracy to be challenged.
Persistent horizontal segregation in education and employment is no longer tolerable and must be tackled since early childhood. It is the ground of inequalities that represent an insurmountable obstacle to the full participation of women in employment and in the society. It also slows down economic growth.
Being an economic, social, cultural issue, it must be faced with multilevel policies in every sector, starting from its deepest social and cultural roots.
Gender discrimination is often intersectional as it is accompanied by discrimination due to ethnic grounds, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, living in a rural area, being migrant or in poverty, etc.
Education is undoubtedly the starting point to guarantee literacy and to allow women to get the needed skills for an active participation and full personal development. It is necessary to tackle with determination the cultural and language stereotyping, presenting the girls different and alternative role models,, especially in the media sector.
Women face many obstacles in the male-dominated sectors. Even if they achieve better performances and results in their study career, girls who choose STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses are still fewer than males. It is therefore important to take action to increase women’s presence in these sectors, as it will impact on the work of the future.
Targeted training of female workers and lifelong learning is essential to prevent exclusion from the labor market and prevent the spiral of feminization of poverty. We must guarantee fair working conditions, a decent salary and access to social protection, especially in new forms of work and in the GIG economy.
The informal nature of this work can make women move from traditional occupations to more readily available jobs and sometimes easily managed in terms of working hours, but without the same social protection provided by standard work.
It is right there that we have to play our trade union role, so that the rights provided by laws and agreements are recognized and new forms of exploitation and marginalization are not created.
Fundamental then, to intervene in favor of a more equitable distribution of care tasks between genders, supported by public policies and services for a proper balance between work and private life.
The sharing of parental responsibilities and other care responsibilities, often for women, is essential for an equal participation in the labor market. In this regard, high-quality public services in childcare, accessible in particular for low-income families, are of crucial importance as well as parental leave and assistance for non self-sufficient people.
The role of the social partners and collective bargaining is fundamental in this context.
Women in the trade union, in such a complex historical moment, must reiterate and promote a real gender perspective, within the framework of a great, continuous cultural battle within and outside the action of their organizations.
It is urgent to recreate a new alliance between women, to build a network not only among the trade unions, but also with the movements, associations and organizations of civil society.
A network that allows us to conquer new rights and to bridge the backlog recorded in the last decades in terms of acquired rights.
We continue to struggle with all the instruments at our disposal, starting from the affirmation of women’s and labour rights, which are human rights and, as such, universal. A real change can no longer be postponed, because it is not possible to advance in society and in the economy without a change that puts women’s rights and freedoms at the heart of strategic choices and global policies.