Gender equality project planning meeting

PSI and its Swedish partner, Fackförbundet ST, organised a hybrid planning meeting on 9 and 10 June in Beirut to launch the next round of the Gender Equality Project in the MENA region (2023 – 2025) and to develop a concrete work plan for the coming 3 years, focusing on 2023.

16 trade unionists attended the meeting. They came from the 8 countries (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon) where this project has been implemented.

In the previous project (2018-2022), 25 of the 33 participating unions adopted quotas for women leadership positions at different levels, ranging from 50% in the Syndicat National Autonome du personnel de l’Administration Publique (SNAPAP) in Algeria, to 11.11% in the National Federation for Agriculture in Tunisia. Trade union elections over the last three years witnessed an increase in women’s access to leadership positions in unions that have not adopted the quota, reaching a rate of 22% in the health and petrochemical sectors in Jordan, and 16% in the Syndicate of Middle East Airlines in Lebanon.

Most of the trade unions elections that took place in 2021 witnessed a higher number of women candidates. Many of them won the elections and occupied leadership positions, both within the quota and in unions that did not apply it. In Lebanon, for example, the number of elected women rose from 4 out of 96 leadership positions in the 8 unions in 2018 to 24 out of 96 in 2021. Unprecedented in Lebanon, a woman trade unionist won the presidency of the Council of Delegates in the Federation of Public Services, and three other women (out of 12 members) were elected to the executive board of the same federation.

The project has also actively involved male leaders in gender issues. In Lebanon, for example, the launch of a gender campaign was initiated by the male leadership of the Social Security Workers Union.

PSI MENA engaged experts in some countries to formulate research papers on the impact of gender-based violence on economic development. Trade union leaders learned from these studies that trade unions should play a key role in addressing gender-based violence and its effects in the workplace, notably by developing and implementing effective prevention strategies.

Many of the participating unions campaigned for the ratification of ILO Convention 190, while others campaigned for the amendment of a discriminatory law. Women workers that were given information on international standards in relation to gender equality and that took part in campaigning and organising skills training had a strong voice on social justice and equality issues and have engaged in popular protests in the MENA region.

The overall project objective for 2023-2025 is: PSI affiliated trade unions address gender inequality, violence and harassment by building gender fair unions and representing women’s issues through collective bargaining and policy engagements with public sector employers, and contribute to changing national legislation and policy, which has a positive impact on women in the broader society in the MENA region.

The main strategies are to continue to pursue trade union transformation through progressive gender policies, women’s representation and participation in the union and the inclusion of women’s issues on the trade union agenda. Participating unions will seek to promote equal rights and opportunities for women workers in public services, free from discrimination and violence, through collective bargaining and workplace policies. At national level, participating unions will combat discriminatory laws and promote international standards on gender equality and for the elimination of violence and harassment in public service workplaces through advocacy and campaigning, including social dialogue.