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Gender Equality and Development

Promoting Women Workers’ Social Rights
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Is there a need for a Bill of Working Women’s Social Rights?
In tandem with the increasing involvement of women in the global economy, many parts of the world have seen large numbers of women joining trade unions. This growth in the rank and file has not, however, been met by a corresponding growth in women’s decision-making positions in trade unions. In addition, there exist several conventions and declarations pertaining to women’s rights (e.g.,
Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women CEDAW and Beijing Platform for Action , ILO conventions on non-discriminations such as
Maternity Protection Convention
but in general little attention is paid in international laws to the socio-economic rights of working women. ( International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which is the main international framework for economic citizenship, does not specifically refer to working women). Socio-economic rights are usually addressed in national laws, including labour legislation and pertinent social policies. However, in many countries, laws and policies regarding working women’s social rights are being revised or constrained in various ways, in part due to the spread of neoliberal economic policies and trade agreements.
Could the socio-economic rights of working women be protected, promoted, and enhanced by increasing the numbers of activist women in trade union leadership roles? Is there a need for a Bill of Working Women’s Social Rights?


Establishment of a research and advocacy network dedicated to the support and expansion of the social rights of working women through the enhancement of women’s roles in trade union decision-making and the possible establishment of a Bill of Women’s Social Rights.

Partnerships have been formed with academic researchers on women and work issues; representatives of the International Confederation of Free Trade-Unions (ICFTU), International Labor Organization(ILO), Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens (CFTC), Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU, South Africa), Public Services International (PSI), Education International (EI), Workers Advice Center (WAC, Israel), Trades Union Congress (TUC), Development Alternatives for Women in a New Era (DAWN), Association des Femmes pour la Recherche et le Développement (AFTURD, Tunisia); and women trade unionists.

Roundtable, July 2006

In this connection, a Roundtable on “Women, Socio-economic Rights and Trade Union Decision-making” was organized in cooperation with the Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens (CFTC), during the 2nd World Forum on Human Rights, in Nantes, France, on 12 July 2006. The roundtable brought together participants in the UNESCO project on enhancing Women’s Socio-Economics Rights and Trade Union Leadership, which had a threefold purpose:
  • First, it analyzed the role of international law and human rights instruments in the protection and expansion of women socio-economic rights, and how these laws affect legal frameworks, policies, and advocacy campaigns at the national level.
  • Second, it examined the part played by trade union feminists in (a) bridging the divide between the labor movement and the women’s movement, and (b) in promoting policies to enhance the working conditions and socio-economic rights of women in the labor force.
  • Third, it sought to build a research/advocacy network to promote the socio-economic rights of working women.
Through an examination of labor codes, social policies, and international rights instruments, and in-depth interviews with (a) trade unionists in national unions and global union federations (GUFs) and (b) representatives of NGOs that focus on women’s economic conditions and rights, project participants have been identifying the gaps in legislation, the extent of NGO-trade union collaboration, and the capacity of trade union feminists to influence the culture, priorities, and partnerships of their unions. The roundtable at Nantes provided an opportunity to discuss research findings and policy implications.

Roundtable Programme

Ms Valentine Moghadam, UNESCO

Ms Mary Margaret Fonow, Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies, Arizona State University, and Ms Suzanne Franzway, Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies, University of South Australia
Ms Shauna Olney, International Labor Organization (ILO)
Ms Jo Morris, Trade Union Congress (TUC)
Ms Nora Wintour, Public Services International (PSI)
Ms Mamounata Cissé, Assistant General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade-Union (ICFTU)
Ms Wassila Ltaief, Researcher, law expert on the Maghrib countries
Ms Michal Schwartz, Workers Advice Center (WAC, Israel)
Ms Pascale Coton, Vice-Président of the Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens (CFTC)
Ms Jan Eastman, Education International (EI)

Start Date 31-05-2005
End Date 31-05-2007
Lead Organization / Sector / Office UNESCO
Contact First Name Valentine
Contact Last Name Moghadam
Keywords Women, Trade Union, Social Rights

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