Public sector unions represent thousands of workers at all levels. These unions have statutory rights to engage with governments and other stakeholders, for example in negotiating policies and collective agreements. Unions are therefore well placed to address gender-based violence (GBV) at work and beyond.
Here are six actions for trade unions wishing to develop or improve their strategies to end GBV. They are based on the experience of teachers’ unions in tackling GBV in schools in seven countries in Africa.
1. Look inward: Empower union members by strengthening internal decision-making structures to end GBV
It is possible to bring about positive change when we are aware of our rights, come together and take action to defend them.
What to do: Change the formal decision-making structures of the union to improve representation and catalyse action to end gender-based violence.
Actions to take:
- Mandate specific positions and structures to take forward the work to end GBV at all levels of the trade union.
- Strengthen the participation of women in decision-making to promote gender equality.
- Create opportunities for young trade union members to organise and address the issue of GBV.
- Celebrate members with disabilities and albinism and LGBTI members
- Demand accountability from entities responsible for GBV initiatives
2. Own the issue: Embed the commitment to end GBV in policy frameworks
Embedding the intentions of members in the framing documents that define the union demonstrates the shared goal of ending GBV in the organisation. Affirming and formalising the commitment to work on GBV in policies at all levels ensures that it has lasting legitimacy among union members.
Actions to take:
- Adopt formal resolutions on GBV.
- Incorporate the union’s commitment to ending GBV into the Constitution.
- Update the gender equality policy to include GBV as a target.
- Adopt other internal policies to ensure that the union is free from GBV, for example, sexual harassment policies and standing orders.
3. Walk the talk: Resource the union’s GBV initiatives
Find creative and sustainable ways to resource union initiatives to end GBV. Some actions to take to turn union intentions into sustainable action include
- Include GBV-related programmes in annual work plans and budgets.
- Integrate GBV awareness-raising activities into other existing programmes.
- Raise awareness of the issue among members through regular internal communication.
- Collect and analyse data on how GBV is understood and experienced by union members.
4. Reach out: Build solidarity and alliances
The union can make a significant contribution to tackling GBV by engaging its broad membership. However, it cannot do it alone.
Actions to take:
- Work with other trade unions to address GBV.
- Engage in multi-stakeholder dialogue to address GBV.
- Work with government to shape policies that address GBV.
5. Break the silence: Engage the media
Engage the media to raise public awareness of gender-based violence..
6. Empowering workers: Union members help workers to understand their rights and voice their concerns
Shop stewards can empower workers to prevent and respond to GBV. Workers can become active agents in ending GBV if they understand their rights, learn to recognise GBV, and know who to talk to if they witness or experience abuse.
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