on the union executive. Such trade unionists and local women’s centres can form alliances to take specific actions or to plan strategies for improved pay or conditions for women workers.
For example, health and safety is cited as a major concern of workers in almost every investigation. Unions know that health and safety can be an organising focus, bringing workers together, and are usually responsible for ensuring a safe workplace. However the male domination of many trade unions means that unions often do not address women’s needs at the workplace, nor their physiological responses to specific hazards. So, it is important to have women in key union positions.
Liaison with women’s centres or NGOs on issues of health and safety can be productive. Also, if there is a trade union in the company, members can try to find which other unions are related to it. This can be a useful source of information.
Aspects of education and training
Many new industrial workers come from humble, even poor, backgrounds. Thus, the experience of earning an income has done a lot to raise their self-confidence and indeed their standing within the family. This is an important factor that women’s organisations and unions should not dismiss. Such women are ready to make decisions about how they would like to organise their working lives, and also their personal
lives. This burgeoning spirit of independence needs support to help direct it to achieve greater power for all working women.
Also, from China the observation has been made that new technology has placed women, who previously had been engaged in old-style modes of production, in positions of socialised large-scale production, so that the once unorganised and undisciplined women were transformed into new women, strictly organised and well-disciplined.
This is fine for the employer, but what does it do for the women? Women must be helped to use this change in attitude to organise for their own self-improvement and for collective action to improve the conditions of other working women.
Many women interviewed mentioned education and training. In their experience:
Lack of formal education and training is generally identified by women as the key factor that excludes them from the better paid and more rewarding jobs, those that demand higher levels of technical and analytical skills. Women’s organisations should lobby for greater education opportunities and facilities for women.
Some technical institutes of higher education have been set up for women, such as the Polytech-
nic Institutes for women in Bangladesh. This will not, in itself, help the mass of women workers, but it will eventually bring more women into positions of influence in the companies and possibly in politics.
The workshop reports from the project are available from :
Martin Reed, UNU/INTECH,
E-mail : email@example.com
And also available in website:
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Asian Women Workers Newsletter Vol. 16 No. 4 October 1997