Defending and Improving Women’s Rights Internationally

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2023 National Delegate Conference
21 February 2023

Conference notes the words of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, “Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.”

Conference believes that identifying, celebrating and increasing visibility of women’s achievements worldwide can help forge equality and combat gender bias, and that collaborating with women activists in different countries across the World, based on a foundation of shared purpose, trust and appreciation, can impact positive change for women.

UNISON works with individual unions and global union federations to defend public services and fight against austerity around the world and works to defend human and trade union rights wherever they are under attack.

Conference believes that with over a million women in our union and as the UK’s biggest women’s organisation, UNISON can play an important role in helping to defend and improve women’s rights in the workplace and wider society, internationally.

Conference congratulates the National Women’s Committee for recent international work including understanding the potential global impact of the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, removing a woman’s constitutional right to abortion and for speaking out and defending abortion rights alongside American and Polish women activists. Also, for inviting women activists from Colombia and Turkey to speak with the National Women’s Committee and wider women’s membership about defending human rights, labour rights, peace and social justice.

Conference applauds the bravery of women in Iran for taking a stand and demanding an end to the mandatory headscarf and modest clothing. Conference condemns the repression of women who have been physically attacked and killed for fighting for their basic rights. We stand in solidarity with them as individuals and with the women’s organisations that are supporting them.

Conference welcomes that the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Global Union Federations and Trade Unions across the world embark each November on 16 days of global activism. This is used worldwide to call for the elimination of gender-based violence and runs annually from November 25th (International Day Against Violence Against Women) to December 10th International Human Rights Day. The ITUC and the Trade Unions are calling on governments to guarantee a world of work free from gender-based violence and harassment. This right is enshrined in ILO (International Labour Organisation) Convention 190 (C190) and its effective implementation are crucial to eliminate gender-based violence and harassment at work. C190 was ratified in the United Kingdom in March 2022.

Conference believes there is more that could be done to strengthen international links with women activists and women’s structures in trade unions and social organisations in other countries and calls on the National Executive committee to:

1)Work with the National Women’s Committee and the UNISON’s International Committee to identify new opportunities to build links with women activists and their structures in trade unions and social organisations internationally;

2)Continue to work internationally to defend abortion rights;

3)Continue to work with the International Committee and the National Women’s Committee to provide solidarity with women who are on the front-line in demanding trade union rights, peace and social justice, specifically in Colombia and Turkey;

4)Work with the National Women’s Committee to show solidarity with women in Iran and explore ways to help them fight oppression and discrimination;

5)Work with all other appropriate sections of the union to raise awareness of ILO C190 and to look at the feasibility of joining the 16 days of activism in November 2023.