The challenges of being a woman shop steward

The challenges of being a woman shop steward

Three women shop stewards – Doris Nqetho, Pinky Ramokoka and Zingiswa Magoxo – take an honest look at the challenges they face in their ‘unpaid jobs’ as shop stewards and put forward suggestions on how to make their task easier.

The first hurdle is getting nominated to stand as a shop steward. Many women suffer from “pull me down” syndrome – they are afraid to stand as a leader and decline nomination.

Even if women get past this first hurdle, they still have to face the ‘sisterhood’! Often women shop stewards find that other female comrades fail to support them. We end up being called names.

And when this happens, other comrades in the factories disrespect us and no-one can see the potential of our leadership.Election of women shop stewards under the auspices of gender representation helps us to get elected. That is good. But it is a double-edged sword.

Many of us believe that we are just tokens – we are not elected because of our skills and potential. As a result it becomes harder for women to stand in front of workers and address them on work-related matters.

Often women shop stewards feel that the male members do not respect and recognise their contribution, especially if the workplace is dominated by men.

Sexual favours

Sometimes we suspect that when there are meetings to be attended, especially ones that take more than one day, women are only delegated to accommodate certain male comrades to satisfy their sexual desire, not to groom and build the women shop stewards.

Some male comrades expect sexual favours from female shop stewards and assume that that is the only purpose of having them in the committee. Sexual harassment can severely damage a woman shop steward’s self-esteem and result in her resigning from being a shop steward and a member of the organisation.

When a woman does progress significantly in the ranks of shop stewards, when she has gained the confidence of workers across all gender lines, then it lays her open to character assassination because she has advocated what the organisation stands for and what is in the interests of workers.


We feel that often women are being denied the opportunity of becoming full-time shop stewards and office-bearers because of the stereotypes that still exist amongst male comrades.

Many assume that a woman is best placed to attend to activities during the day and then after hours she must go home to attend to her house chores and the man can take over.

These stereotypes have been proven wrong by the work that women have produced and by the strength that they have shown to deal with all responsibilities allocated to them both inside and outside the organisation.

But many women do have these extra jobs at home – often they are single parents and they must take care of children and do the cooking.

The times of union meetings often do not accommodate women or meetings finish after dark and it is not safe for women taking public transport home.

How can Numsa support women shop stewards?There must be workshops to liberate women’s minds so that they feel able to occupy positions and not to say they are unavailable when they are nominated.

There is a tendency for structures that are meant to deal with and focus on women’s empowerment to become male dominated.

Women who are supposed to belong to such structures are being suppressed.There should be proper monitoring by women of women’s resolutions taken and whether they are being implemented.

The policy on sexual harassment must be very strong. It must be clear on how to handle such cases.There must also be a clear policy on victimization, especially dealing with female comrades.

We must do away with the thinking that male comrades determine who a female comrade can date, especially when we are close to electing congresses.

These tendencies emerged in our last National Congress and many female comrades became victims and were degraded as a result of whom they associated with.

There must be workshops to ensure that male and female comrades are taken through on all matters that relate to women’s growth, what actions hinder growth, how both can lead and not become victims and allow discussion around all these issues to take place.

There must be capacity building workshops that are more focused on female shop stewards. These must build their self-esteem and ensure that they can also articulate issues.

The organization must also consider having preparatory schools for leadership in waiting so as to ensure that there is a succession plan. Women can then take their rightful places in the leadership of the organisation and in deployment positions in the society.

Numsa should make more effort to provide child-minders where necessary.The Mini National Congress sitting in May must address these burning issues.

Izinselelo zokuba yishop steward yesifazaneUkuba yishop steward yesifazane akuwona umsebenzi olula, kusho abesifazane abathathu abangamashop steward – abangoDoris Nqetho, Pinky Ramakoka kanye noZingiswa Magoxo. Okokuqala, kuba khona uvalo lokumela ukhetho lokuba yishop steward futhi-ke kuthi noma sekukhethwe owesifazane, ngokuvamisile, abanye besifazane nabo bangayisizi. Kuvamise ukuthi amashop steward esifazane ahlushwe ngokuhambelana nezocansi ngamaqabane esilisa (sexual harassment) futhi ahlangana nobunzima uma ezama ukukhulisa abantwana, ebe epheka futhi engabaholi ezimbonini asebenza kuzo. Imihlangano yokufundisa, imigomo ecace bha, ukuqedwa nya kokuhlushwa ngezocansi kwabesifazane, kuyizinto ezingawasiza amashop steward kulo msebenzi wawo onzima.

Die uitdagings van ‘n vroulike vloerbeampteOm ‘n vroulike vloerbeampte te wees is nie maklik nie – dit is die mening van drie vroulike vloerbeamptes, naamlik Doris Nqetho, Pinky Ramokoka en Zingiswa Magoxo. Eerstens is daar die vrees om as ‘n vloerbeampte te staan, en selfs as ‘n vrou verkies word, word hulle dikwels nie deur ander vroue ondersteun nie. Vroulike vloerbeamptes word dikwels deur manlike kamerade seksueel geteister, en hulle ondervind baie probleme om vir hulle kinders te probeer sorg, maaltye te kook en leiers in hulle fabrieke te wees.Opvoedingswerkswinkels en duidelike beleid wat seksuele teistering asook viktimisering vasvat, kan help om vroulike vloerbeamptes in hulle moeilike rol by te staan.

Diphepetso tsa ho ba shop steward ya mosadiHo ba shop steward ya mosadi ha se ntho e bonolo, ho rialo di-shop steward tse tharo tsa basadi – Doris Nqetho, Pinky Ramokoka le Zingiswa Magoxo. La pele ho na le tshabo ya hore batho ba eme ho ba di-shop steward le ha mosadi a ka kgethwa, basadi ba bang hangata ha ba mo tshehetse. Di-shop steward tsa basadi hangata di hlekefetswa ka tsa thobalano ke di-comrade tse ding tsa banna mme ba tobana le mathata ka ho leka ho hlokomela bana, ho pheha le ho ba baetapele difekethering tsa bona.Diwekeshopo tsa thuto, maano a hlakileng le ho fediswa ha tlhekefetso ya tsa thobalano ya di-shop steward tsa basadi mosebetsing ona wa bona o boima.


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