Will gender workshops make gender more visible in the organization?

Since the end of June 2013, close to 300 Numsa gender activists and office bearers have gone through gender induction training facilitated by worker education specialists, Grischelda Hartman and Gcinaphi Dlamini, from Ditsela.

The workshops run for all Numsa’s 9 regions grappled with painful issues such as women’s personal stories of abuse at the hands of their male partners. Often financial circumstances made worse by the capitalist system, forced women into these difficult situations.

Participants reflected on how our culture encourages women to be humble and to show respect to their male counterparts. One male participant from KZN admitted that from an early age he had been taught that he was the ‘man of the house’ and that whatever he says goes and a woman has to oblige without asking questions.

The workshop forced him to reassess all this and look upon his partner as an equal in their relationship.

Then there were those participants, long in the union, who pointed out that “forever we have been saying, ‘Let us be workshopped, let us have structures, let us implement,’ but nothing changes.”

Stories were told of how women are better at destroying other women than building them; of how women will elect a man instead of a woman and of how if a woman is elected, the other women will make a point of undermining her because of jealousy.

Participants analysed Numsa’s gender structures and each workshop found them wanting. They bemoaned the fact that gender structures were dying or inactive.

They found that gender structures started from the local level and that most of them didn’t know what their role was.

All workshops resolved to try and build gender structures at a workplace level. These would be prioritized in workplaces where there were large numbers of women members and even in male-dominated workplaces so that men could be sensitized about gender issues.

The gender structures would work on specific problems identified by these structures – eg unhygienic toilets, low numbers of women in skilled positions at the workplace, the meaning of gender and so on.

What’s left now is for participants to take up the challenge and for gender to be visible in the organization. Workplaces must build and strengthen gender structures and gender activities must happen in the last few months of the year!

Contents of the course:
• To strengthen the capacity of shop stewards to advance gender struggles in trade unions

• To discuss and have an understanding of gender concepts

• To develop skills in gender analysis

• To have an understanding of how the union structures function, especially how the gender structure fits in to the union’s constitutional structures

• To develop skills in running effective meetings, taking minutes and writing reports