Public sector trade unions represent thousands of workers at all levels of their focus sector. These unions enjoy statutory rights to engage with governments and other stakeholders, for example, in negotiating policies and collective agreements. Hence, the unions are well-positioned to confront gender-based violence (GBV) in their work settings and more broadly.
Here we suggest six actions that public sector unions can take to build and improve the strategies for ending gender-based violence in their contexts. The suggestions are drawn from the experience of teacher unions in combatting gender-based violence in educational settings 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 know our rights, come together and take action to defend them. Use a similar approach to end gender-based violence in the union’s settings.
What to do: Change the union’s formal decision-making structures to enhance representation and catalyse action to end gender-based violence.
Actions to take:
- Mandate specific positions and structures to advance work to ending GBV at all levels of the union
- Enhance women’s participation in decision-making spaces to advance gender equality
- Create opportunities for young union members to organise and tackle GBV
- Honour the members living with disabilities and albinism, and LGBTI members
- Hold responsible the entities accountable for advancing GBV initiatives
2. Own the issue: Embed the commitment to end GBV in policy frameworks
Demonstrate the shared goal of ending GBV in the union by embedding the members’ intentions into the framing documents that define the trade union. Affirming and formalising the commitment to work on GBV into policies at all levels ensures it holds enduring legitimacy within the union membership.
Actions to take:
- Adopt formal resolutions on GBV
- Entrench the union’s commitment to ending GBV in the constitution
- Update gender equality policies to target GBV
- Adopt other internal policies for making the union free of GBV, for example, sexual harassment policies and standing orders.
3. Walk the talk: Resource the union’s GBV initiatives
Find creative and sustainable practices to resource the union’s initiatives for ending GBV. Some actions to take to translate the union’s intentions into long-lasting action:
- Integrate GBV-related programmes into annual work plans and budgets
- Mainstream GBV awareness-raising activities into other ongoing programmes;
- Use regular internal communications instruments to sensitise members;
- Collect and analyse data from members about their understanding and experience of GBV
4. Reach out: Build solidarity and alliances
While the union can make significant gains in addressing GBV by engaging its broad membership, it cannot do it alone. The union can collaborate with other stakeholders to shape policy and practice.
Actions to take:
- Collaborate with other unions to address GBV
- engage in multi-stakeholder dialogue to address GBV
- collaborate with the government to shape policies that address GBV
5. Break the silence: Engage the media
Engage the media to raise awareness of gender-based violence more broadly in the general public.
6. Empowering workers: Union members help workers to understand their rights and voice their concerns
Shop stewards are well-placed to empower workers to prevent and respond to SRGBV. If workers understand their rights, learn to recognise GBV and know who to talk to if they witness or experience abuse, they can become active agents in ending it.
HANDPICKED RELATED ARTICLES:
- LRS facilitator’s reflection on old methods and new lessons for ending school-related gender-based violence in Africa
- Learning through reflection is an act of human struggle | The experience of an LRS facilitator
- The LRS response to GBV in educational settings
- The LRS response to GBV in health settings
- The LRS response to GBV in a community
- The LRS response to homophobia and discrimination in the workplace