Women’s Day: IndustriALL Global Union in Nigeria Takes ‘Balance For Better’ Advocacy To Streets

By Emmanuel Ajibulu

As the world marks 2019 edition of International Women’s Day, women in trade Unions in Nigeria, under the aegis of IndustriALL Global Union in unison came out in their large numbers on Thursday March 7, 2019 to drive home the theme of their anniversary (Gender) ”Balance For Better”.

The enthusiastic female unionists all clad in branded IndustriALL white, black and red T-Shirts, led by globally recognized rights activist, Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin (otherwise addressed as Joe Odumakin), the Chairperson, IndustriALL National Women Committee, Comrade Oluchi Amaogu and National Chairperson, NUPENG Women Committee, Comrade Thelma Ndukwe marched and danced round the neighborhoods of Jibowu and Yaba axis of Lagos, amidst drums and trumpets.

Addressing the gathering in her welcome message at the NUPENG Lagos zonal office in Fadeyi right after the advocacy parade on the streets, Comrade Oluchi said: “Today IndustriALL global union uses International Women’s Day to demand sensitivity and accountability on the part of all stakeholders across board to obliterate the plight of women and girl child and ensuring that there is room for ‘balance for better’.

I’m always passionate about the woman and her overall well-being and of course IndustriALL is always interested in growth in family life, career, health and other areas and therefore will continue to provide platforms and support programmes that will help women and their various concerns. This value-packed initiative will help women learn essential lessons which can be applied to their daily lives and career and also help us become all we want to be and be the best at it. I am also happy that we have some secondary school students with us today who are obviously open to an opportunity to learn from us and apply the learning to their daily engagements in order to better their future and positively influence their peers”

Comrade Issa Aremu, Vice President, IndustriALL Global Union on his part said, “IndustriALL Global Union of which I’m a Vice President representing our dear continent demands that all workers should enjoy equal rights. Sadly all female and young workers still remain subject to discrimination. They are being denied their fundamental rights. IndustriALL fights their discrimination at work and union by promoting their fairer and stronger participation in trade unions.”

The seasoned trade unionist who was unavoidably absent at the event due to his guber campaigns ahead of Saturday March 9 polls in Kwara State, was represented by Comrade Ruth Balogun, who on his behalf read the Union leader’s lucid and very insightful speech.

“Violence against women in the workplace was a key topic when the IndustriALL Women Committee met in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 7 November last year. The Committee reinforced its support for a campaign to fight against violence and harassment against women in the workplace.

IndustriALL Executive Committee calls on affiliates to take the pledge to combat violence against women and take active steps to implement its commitments.” Whilst emphasizing on the need for the women to take full responsibility, he charged them to “Take the pledge!”

Highlighting the pledge in specific terms, Aremu in his read speech said, “To take a public stand against all forms of violence and harassment against women and to condemn all attitudes and actions that perpetuate sexism and violence;

“To take up the issue as a priority in our union and to allocate the necessary resources for activities aimed at preventing and combating this violation of women’s rights;

“To foster a culture of respect for women within our union by raising the awareness of our members, staff and officials and providing education on the importance of eradicating violence and harassment in the workplace and in our union;

“To encourage our members to actively take a stand against violence and harassment against women, especially in their own workplaces.”

He added, “To organize campaigns aimed at preventing and combating violence against women;
“To demand that governments enact and enforce laws to protect women from violence;

“To demand that employers develop policies against all forms of violence and harassment at work, and promote awareness among their employees on the devastating impacts of violence against women and the importance of eradicating it;

“To demand that employers develop concrete policies and procedures to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women in their premises and supply chains, and establish safe mechanisms for women to turn to if they are assaulted or attacked at work; to include demands for the eradication of violence and harassment against women in our collective bargaining claims.” Aremu stressed.

Meanwhile, Dr Joe Odumakin President, “Women Arise for Change Initiative” during her presentation which was hinged on the anniversary theme, said women abilities make them equal humans to their male counterparts.

She advised women to ensure that they broke the culture of silence, which according to her, imposes a lot of reactionary culture of suppression on them. She also urged women to make education their priorities, saying that an educated mind, anywhere, “is a liberated mind”.

The female rights activist also decried low turnout of women participation in politics, “Women supporting women is good for the society” she noted that, with the population of Nigerian women averaged 50 percent of its total populace, it would also be nice if there are more women manning the political and appointive public service positions of the country.

She quoted the National Gender Policy (NGP) saying that, “In Nigeria, the extant NGP recommended 35 percent affirmative action instead and sought for a more inclusive representation of women with at least 35 percent of both elective political and appointive public service positions respectively, it will not be a bad idea if we surpass the percentage.”

According to her, “In 2007, there are eight female Senators out of 109 available seats, while in the House of Representative, out of 360 available seats, we have 23 which are women. The number of female Senators in the nation dropped to seven in 2011 while that of the Green chamber increased by just three. Currently, we have only eight female Senators, while in the HOR, the number declined further to 19.”

She regretted that majority of Nigerians erroneously bear negative mindsets about the concept of gender equality. “They think women are demanding equality with men, but that is not true; what we are asking for is equal opportunities.

She said in addition to the premise of the day was to raise awareness of the fact that women around the world are subject to rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence.

“Furthermore, one of the aims of the day is to highlight that the scale and true nature of the issue is often hidden. One major way of eliminating violence against women is the implementation of various guidelines and legislations that have been created toward tackling the menace of violence against women.

“We also need to increase the capacity of our law enforcement agencies, educate the citizens more than we are currently doing, and ultimately, our society must criminalise all forms of actions of violence against women,” she said.

She advised all the arms of governments to ensure that women, being the highest population in the country were made to leave freely and without fear. She admonished women to discover the strength that existed not only in their numbers.

For the women in trade Unions in Nigeria, they urged women to remain resilient in their demand for equal opportunities, describing this year’s theme, “Balance For Better”, as a nod to the growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support surrounding gender parity.

Among the group were the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), National Union of Chemical, Footwear and Non-Metallic Workers (NUCFRLANMPE), National Union Of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Steel And Engineering Workers Union Of Nigeria (SEWUN), Chemical and Non Metallic Products Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (CANMPSSAN) etc.

It would be recalled that International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year to commemorate the movement for women’s rights. The first observance of the Day was held on Feb.28, 1909 in New York, while March 8 was suggested by the 1910 International Woman’s Conference for the event to become an “International Woman’s Day.

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