Women trade unionists from around the world gathered in Esher, UK, this week to develop their leadership skills and to plan their next moves in the campaign to increase women’s participation in the trade union movement.
A cross section of women from maritime, civil aviation and road and rail unions attended the 2012 women’s strategic leadership and organising conference, which was focused on strategic planning and developing leadership at all levels. Short-term goals identified by participants included setting up women’s committees, dealing with harassment of women in the workplace and developing educational HIV/AIDS programmes specifically aimed at women workers.
Ann Anderson was one of the participants. She became general secretary of the Clerical and Commerical Workers’ Union in Guyana after just six years of membership. She said: “Events like this give the chance for a greater in look into the issues that are affecting women worldwide. It helps you to share your knowledge with them so that you can help in the process of bringing them up, of creating more women leaders throughout your union. It’s allowed us to focus on our own goals in the Caribbean too. What we find is that within our unions there are a number of young people and we’re not touching into that so we will be working on bringing young people into leadership positions. Once you give them the opportunity it will be a new breed of thinking.”
ITF women’s transport workers’ coordinator Alison McGarry added: “Leadership isn’t necessarily about being at the top of your union, you can be an effective leader at any level if you have the skills and the motivation. Some of the women here are general secretaries, some are just starting out in the movement, but what they have in common is the desire to develop women and to strengthen their unions.”