Throughout the month of November, affiliated unions across the Asia-Pacific region launched a renewed effort to raise awareness and mobilize members to reduce the vulnerability of women workers, overcome fear, and eliminate all forms of violence against women. These coordinated activities across the region were the result of the decision of the IUF Asia/Pacific Regional Women’s Committee to mobilize for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, 2021, and promote the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190) and Violence and Harassment Recommendation, 2019 (No. 206).
The IUF Asia/Pacific posters and the statement for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women were distributed in 21 languages in the Asia-Pacific region, including English, Japanese, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Sindhi, Pashto, Nepali, Sinhalese, Indonesian, Khmer, Thai, Tagalog, Chinese (traditional), Chinese (simplified), Burmese, Karen, Kachin, Mon, Arkanese and Shan.
In Pakistan the women agricultural and farm workers’ union, Sindh Nari Porhyat Council (SNPC), held an education programme for members on November 27, explaining the role of the union in ensuring that women can work free from violence. This includes measures to protect women when traveling to and from work and when physically isolated in farms and fields.
In the food and beverage sector, the women’s officers of the Pakistan Food Workers’ Federation (PFWF), explained the posters to union members in the workplace – targeting men workers – and distributed education material. This was vital in improving members’ awareness and understanding of the causes of violence against women and that stopping this violence is the responsibility of all union members, not only women. Discussions focused on ways to ensure a safe and secure workplace for women.
IUF-affiliated unions in Pakistan together with affiliates of Public Services International (PSI) jointly organized a seminar in Hyderabad on the ratification and adoption of ILO Convention No.190 and Recommendation No.206 on November 27, 2021. A second seminar on ILO Convention No.190 and Recommendation No.206 was held on November 29 in Karachi and was attended by trade unionists, journalists and parliamentarians. The meeting resolved to reform a committee to develop a national strategy for the ratification of ILO Convention No.190.
In Bangladesh, IUF-affiliated unions also organized a seminar on the ratification and adoption of ILO Convention No.190 and Recommendation No.206 on November 20, 2021. This was followed by education and awareness activities at factories and workplaces.
The seminar recommendations included the urgent need for legislation and policies in line with ILO Convention No.190, and that provisions for forming a joint sexual harassment prevention committee consisting of equal representation of workers and employers in each factory to be included in the Bangladesh labour law. The meeting called for amending labour laws to give the right to form trade unions for workers engaged in the informal sector, including domestic workers and non-farm agricultural waged workers. It is necessary to fix minimum wages for women workers in this sector and extend social protection to reduce their vulnerability.
In India, the General Secretary of the Gujarat Agriculture Labour Union (GALU) organized series of education sessions on eliminating violence against women with local organizers so they can use the posters in their own meetings in villages. GALU also made eliminating violence against women a part of their program in the “School of Democracy” run to educated rural youth on union activities and public governance.
In Assam, India, the Women’s’ Water, Sanitation and Health Committees held a series of education and awareness activities in several tea plantations. The posters were used to introduce the key concepts and to discuss women’s experiences of violence and harassment in the plantation. Women tea workers reported on both the physical and economic vulnerabilities, the daily verbal and physical abuse they face, and discussed how this can be overcome through concerted action by their self-organized Women’s’ Water, Sanitation and Health Committees.
In Indonesia, the Federation of Hotel, Restaurant, Plaza, Apartment, Catering and Tourism Workers’ Free Union (FSPM) and the National Federation of Food and Beverage Workers (FSBMM) launched awareness campaigns in the workplace.
FSPM undertook an intensive awareness campaign among members in hotels and restaurants in Bandung, Surabaya and Yogyakarta. The unions also posted the posters on union noticeboards in the workplace.
The FSBMM Women’s Committee and FSBMM Youth Committee included the issue of violence against women in the agenda of their respective meetings in Bogor on November 13 and 14, 2021. FSBMM combined education and training with stronger policy commitments by affiliated unions, collective bargaining and negotiating more effective measures to make workplaces safe for women.
In Myanmar, a city-wide federation of hotel and resort workers held education and awareness activities on December 3, 2021. The posters were used to facilitate discussion of the different kinds of fear women face, what causes it, and what should be done. Women hotel and resort workers explained the way in which irregular, precarious employment arrangements and job insecurity contribute to their vulnerability and the violence they face.