Better maternity protection is a main campaign goal for this year’s World Day for Decent Work

In the run up to World Day for Decent Work on 7 October, the IndustriALL global union is rolling out a series of training workshops in key South East Asian countries aimed at promoting gender equality in the work environment and among trade unions. Better maternity protection is one of the main campaign goals of activities around this year’s World Day for Decent Work throughout South East Asia.

One of the first IndustriALL workshops focussed on occupational safety and health (OSH) in Indonesia. Forty-one women leaders from IndustriALL affiliates in the country attended a two-day course in the capital, Jakarta, on 8 and 9 August, 2016. The training was aimed at providing women with the skills and knowledge to help them integrate women’s reproductive and maternal health into workplace health and safety policies.

Although the situation has been improving in recent years, Indonesia remains one of the countries with the worst health and safety record in Southeast Asia. According to Indonesian academic, Andie Endrijatno, awareness of the regulations relating to OSH and the need to implement appropriate measures “is still considered low”. A 2010 paper by Endrijatno, published on the website, observes that according to “the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration of the Republic of Indonesia, only about 2.1 percent of 15,000 large-scale enterprises in Indonesia are applying [the required] OSH Management System”. The figures for smaller enterprises will almost certainly be lower, since the cost of compliance can be high.

Awareness of women’s health and safety issues at work is undoubtedly even lower than awareness of OSH in general, and this situation is widespread throughout South East Asia. Of course, there is often reluctance among governments and employers to invest in OSH, and here is an issue where tripartite negotiations might bear fruit, because the legal costs of resolving OSH disputes can be extraordinarily high.

For the Indonesian workshops, government representatives were invited to discuss current legislation covering women’s health and safety, including maternity benefits. They indicated that they welcomed social dialogue with workers, specifically on the issues of maternal health and the concerns of women.

Group exercises during workshop sessions helped increase awareness of OSH among the women participants. One such exercise involved the identification of women’s and men’s reproductive health hazards in the workplace. Through illustrations and drawings of their own workplaces, the participants were able to identify actual experiences of OSH hazards. They were also asked to draw a human body and pinpoint key areas that might be affected by such hazards.

These exercises helped the women to draw up plans and strategies for responding to occupational hazards, which include not just industrial accidents, but maternal health, sexual health and mental health. The inclusion of women in OSH teams was one of the strategies identified by the participants to promote health and safety at work from the woman’s point-of-view. Other plans that came out of the workshop sessions include initiating dialogue with the health ministry to advocate improved local legislation on maternity protection and to push for the ratification of ILO Convention 183 on Maternity Protection.

In the Philippines, an IndustriALL training session focussed on  advocacy skills for women. Thirty women, representing IndustriALL affiliates were involved. The training included a review of current legislation and international standards related to women. Lorna Ferrer, IndustriALL’s gender-maternity protection project coordinator, presented updates on the current campaign on gender-equality and maternity protection.

Representatives from network organizations concerned with legislative advocacy and the ratification of ILO Conventions such as C183 were invited to share their experiences. They discussed how to support and propose priority legislation and the complex process of ratifying ILO conventions. They encouraged the women to stick to their agenda and expand their networks of trained advocates to increase pressure to the government.

The workshop session helped participants to deepen their understanding of the challenges relating to advocacy and campaigning. Advocacy work is not simple, but the women who attended the workshop resolved to continue working towards the passage of proposed local legislation to extend maternity protection and to push for the ratification of ILO C183 within the Philippines.

They agreed to campaign for maternity leave provisions consistent with ILO standards–98 days minimum and 120 days maximum. Planning sessions will be organized to refine and firm up plans for the this and other maternity protection campaigns.

Further training workshops will be delivered in Cambodia and Thailand in September and October. Workshops on promoting gender equality in trade unions are being planned for Myanmar. More women in this country, particularly in the mining sector, need training in gender sensitivity awareness.

More details

This article is based on a report on the IndustriALL website: Women trade union leaders in South East Asia develop gender equality and advocacy skills, 25 August, 2016

Andie Endrijatno, Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) in Indonesia, 2010.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Gary Herman

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