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Shopsteward Volume 23 No. 1

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Conferences  |  Declarations

COSATU National Gender Conference Declaration held on the 27-29 March 2012 at Midrand St Georges Hotel

From 27 - 29 March 2012, we, 150 delegates from COSATU affiliates and provinces, sister trade unions federation FEDUSA, labour service organisations and community organisations gathered at St George Hotel in Johannesburg to assess the state of the gender struggle in COSATU and beyond.

The focus is to mainstream gender issues into political programmes, as well as to strengthen gender structures, to tackle particular instances of discrimination and victimisation in patriarchal society. This is in line with promoting gender equality and ending discrimination, as envisaged in the strategic objective of the National Democratic Revolution.

The theme of the conference: "Fight Inequalities, Promote Decent Work and Build Economic Alternatives for the Total Emancipation of Women" was relevant as the Conference comes shortly after COSATU`s National Stay Away in protest against labour brokering, with women workers worst affected by this plight, which resulted in successful marches across the country. The demands advanced by COSATU speak to key issues impeding women`s full emancipation.

Accordingly, the Conference focused on the following key issues:

  • Promotion of Decent Work and Social Protection for All.
  • Bargaining Agenda for Gender/ Collective Bargaining.
  • Developing Cadres for Political Education.
  • Reflections on Gender Machineries.

Taking into account the nature of capitalism, and how patriarchy manifests itself, we are aware of the challenges confronting us. We commit ourselves to work together as comrades to respond to the challenges facing women, by implementing gender policies, resolutions and strategic programmes to respond to challenges confronting the federation and her unions.

Our focus as COSATU and its affiliates will be on consolidating and strengthening gender structures at all levels. This will assist in mainstreaming gender activism in both COSATU and affiliates` programmes.

We declare that we will develop cadres by;

  • Building gender activism and develop political consciousness of women cadres and work with our male counterparts to find innovative ways of creating space for women`s activism and independent initiatives.
  • Incorporating young women into our programmes and developing them into politically conscious activist.
  • Taking the decisions for life trade union campaign initiated by ITUC forward, by extending and strengthening the existing network of young women who have emerged from the campaign and develop a young women program.

Informed by the fact that South Africa is the most unequal society in the world and having observed that women are at the lowest paid levels of employment and that wage gaps are widenin, we have resolved to revive the "Equal pay for work of equal value "demand. In an endeavour to secure a better deal for women in collective bargaining, we will continue to demand greater involvement of women in negotiating processes and to provide training and support for them.

In restoring the dignity of women, we will spare no effort in the fight against sexual harassment both in the workplace and in unions. COSATU and its affiliates will strengthen and resuscitate the Sexual Harassment Education Project and increase capacity effectiveness through strategic organizational structures.

We will step up our efforts to eliminate gender based violence through programmes and campaigns in the workplace, in our unions, and in our communities. Support the proposal by the women ministry`s on the formulation of the national council against gender based violence.

We will continue pursuing decent work and social protection with an emphasis on the most vulnerable workers, including domestic workers, farm workers informal economy workers and sex workers. We will campaign for greater access to maternity protection for all classes of working women and take forward the campaign for the ratification of ILO Conventions C183(maternity protection) and C189(decent work for domestic workers). We further pledge our support for union of domestic workers, SADSAWU, and call for the full decriminalization of sex work.

Being critical of our role in and relationship to various arms of the National Gender Machinery(including Progressive Women`s Movement, the Ministry of Women, Children and people with Disabilities, and the Commission for Gender Equality) we are determined to strengthen our engagements with machinery stakeholders, to ensure that issues impacting on working class women are fed into their programmes.

We pledge that women must be at the forefront of fighting HIV and AIDS, while in the process encouraging advocacy programmes for males.

Recognising that women`s oppression remains a global problem, we commit ourselves to strengthening our working relations with the International Trade Unions movements and International Labour Organisations, in particular our partnership in the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The freedom we espouse is not complete and it is also under threat as long as gender relations remain unequal. The emancipation of the women means the emancipation of the men too as well as the whole society.

It is our belief that we will never win the struggle for women`s emancipation alone. We will accordingly strengthen our working relationship with Alliance partners, other federations, progressive NGOs and CBOs, and join hands with rights-based organisations in our quest for equality and improvement of the conditions of women.

Finally we will be engaging affiliates to review the COSATU National Gender Policy so as to update it in line with the current situation and conference latest deliberations and full outcomes, as reflected in resolutions.

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