#WomenSpeak: Gender equality demands the unions’ hard work

I am Hala Abdel Hafiz. I am the Assistant General Secretary of GTUBWW in Cairo, Egypt. I started working in the construction industry in 1996. However, it was only in 2018 that I started working full-time for the union to contribute more to the collective effort to organise and educate workers. Outside of my work and trade union activities, I devote my time to my hobbies like reading, writing, listening to music and sports exercising.

As a woman worker and trade unionist, one of the biggest challenges that I encountered at the workplace is gender-based discrimination. We need to constantly prove that women can do the same jobs assigned to our male counterparts, and therefore, deserving of the same incomes and benefits enjoyed by the rest. This cannot stand. 

We must strive for a better future for women workers. A better and equal future for me is a future that is free from all forms of gender discrimination. It means equal pay and decent work are enjoyed by all, especially by women, and the elimination of violence against women at workplaces and their homes. 

Gender equality requires a lot of hard work on the part of trade unions. As such, women participation and leadership at all levels of the trade union’s organisational structures are crucial, especially amidst a pandemic. We need to challenge the inequality that has deepened due to COVID-19, and as a result, destroyed millions of jobs worldwide and unleashed a new wave of gender-based violence. 

Women workers must push forward fairer and gender-inclusive economic and social policies to create and secure safe jobs and equal wages, as well as guarantee compensation for workers who were unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19 at their workplaces. We need to popularise a package of policies and measures by integrating women’s issues and agenda. And looking forward to a post-COVID-19 path to economic recovery, trade unions must help in designing economic and social plans to build a progressive and gender-equal new world.  

*#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.