Roundtable discussion on Women in the Workplace organised by UN Women in Collaboration with New Woman Foundation

Added on:  02-Dec-2014

The roundtable was organized as part of UN Women's celebration of "16 days of activism" campaign to combat violence against women in Egypt. It is part of the Regional Programme for the Economic and Political Empowerment of Women in the Southern Mediterranean Region (Spring Forward for Women), a joint initiative of UN Women and the European Commission.

The objective of the event was to draw attention to forms of violence against women and discrimination in the work place as well as to discuss how women’s rights issues can become more visible on trade unions agendas. The round table brought together representatives from diverse trade unions such as the Real Estate Tax Authority, Nursing, Aviation, and Textiles in addition to representatives of NGOs engaged on women's labor rights and various media personnel.

Discussions started off by highlighting the personal experiences, both positive and negative, of women trade unionists and the issues they brought on board as a result of their collective activism. Some of these issues included the gender pay gap, denial of women’s rights to paid maternity leave and the absence of nurseries in the work place to support working mothers to fulfill both their reproductive and productive roles. The low representation of women in senior positions in trade unions even in those that have a majority of women as members as well as the absence of gender disaggregated data on membership in trade unions was also highlighted. A number of women trade unionists emphasized the importance of mentoring for women and the need to provide them with knowledge, confidence and skills to support them in their roles. Discussions also took place on how to actively promote gender equality and women’s rights issues at all levels and to avoid compartmentalizing them in women’s departments that are often underfunded and powerless.

Engaging men to build consensus for women rights issues to be seen as issues affecting society’s wellbeing at large was seen as an important means of achieving this. Attendees also spoke of the importance of building alliances and of collective action among women from different trade unions in support of common gender equality and women’s rights goals. The draft labor law currently being discussed was considered as a common point of action that requires concerted efforts to address gender discriminatory articles. During the meeting, a presentation was also made on the challenges women face in the labor market and within trade unions. The presentation was based on real life testimonies of women themselves and the proposals made by the women who were interviewed.

Photo Credit: UN Women/Mohamed Ezz Aldin

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