On 2-4 September 2019, the BWI 2019 Global Women’s Leadership Meeting, which was being held in Skopje, North Macedonia brought together over 40 women trade union leaders from 20 countries in Asia, Africa and Middle East, Latin America, and Europe.
Under the theme of “Strong Women, Strong Unions, and Strong Society,” the participants discussed and shared case studies in organizing women; strategized on the next steps of BWI global campaigns to stop gender-based violence, equal pay, and gender equality; and network to further develop and strengthen women leaders in BWI nationally, regionally, and globally.
In his welcoming remarks Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI said, “The struggle of BWI women has advanced beyond 30 percent representation. BWI women is changing how we work and how we fight. More and more union victories are being led by women as leaders, as organizers, as negotiators, as shop steward as members. Women are now in the forefront of the BWI campaigns. There can be no real union victories without women,”
Sessions included skills training on organizing, campaigning, and social media, as well discussion on leadership development focusing on mentorship and developing sub-regional networks. Throughout the meeting participants shared case campaign case studies such as the Women's Strike in Spain, organizing migrant workers in Qatar, youth development in North Macedonia and ensuring safety and health in Panama.
On the 2nd day of the meeting, the highlight was a Public Forum that was open to the general public and media in North Macedonia. The Forum was focused on women’s rights in North Macedonia and brought together trade unions, NGOs, and women’s groups. Various mass media agencies covered the Forum, including MRT National television in North Macedonia.
Through video messages and skype, Georgina Smedley of the TWU-Ghana and Esther Asabe Ahmadu of CCESSA-Nigeria, and Fozert Mugabe of ZCATWU of Zimbabwe were able to join the meeting to present how their unions organize and empower women to fight for their rights in Africa.
A key output of the meeting was the adoption of a series of recommendations and an action plan based on the three-day discussions for BWI to further improve its programs and policies on issues of importance to women in the BWI sectors such as stopping gender-based violence, campaign for equal pay, strengthening women’s leadership programs.
In concluding the conference, Rita Schiavi, Chair of the BWI International Women’s Committee stated, “For the past three-days, there was incredible energy and a strong sense of solidarity in this room. We heard and shared poignant personal stories on the challenges, women face in the workplace and in trade unions. But what is clear is that we need increase our efforts to organize and campaign for gender equality.”