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Transforming the pains of Liberia’s War Ravaged History for good (Gender equality and Trade Unionism in post –conflict Liberia) Oretha Tarnue President,

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Presentation on theme: "Transforming the pains of Liberia’s War Ravaged History for good (Gender equality and Trade Unionism in post –conflict Liberia) Oretha Tarnue President,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Transforming the pains of Liberia’s War Ravaged History for good (Gender equality and Trade Unionism in post –conflict Liberia) Oretha Tarnue President, FODEWUL, Vice President UWUL, Coordinator, DOWUL

2 Presentation Outline Getting to Know Oretha! Basic Information on Liberia Gender equity & Trade Union before/during/after 14year civil War Rebuilding our unions –finding a place for our women (Strategies).

3 Getting to Know Oretha! Joined Forestry Union in Contested for presidency position in local union (Forestry Workers’ Union), in 2002 and won. Presently the vice President of Liberia’s fastest growing union -United Workers Union of Liberia. A former domestic worker in Liberia Backbone of Domestic Workers Union and their fight for better working conditions

4 Where is Liberia Located in West Africa with a population of 3,999,000. Rich in natural resources. One of the world’s poorest countries Suffered two civil wars: 1989 to 1996 (1 st civil war ended in 1997 with Charles Taylor as president) 1999 to 2003 (2 nd war ended with exile of Charles Taylor and election of first female President, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson) The two back to back civil wars left half a million people dead

5 Gender equality and Trade Unions before the War. Before the Civil War, TU’s activities were without substance. Trade unions were organized on industrial lines No political will on government’s part to engender tripartism. Participation by women was insignificant and burdened with cultural & traditional stereotypes.

6 Liberian women and the 14 year war Women and children were most affected.  Physical abuse:  rape, sex slaves, sexual humiliation & mutilation  Maimed (loss of limbs, blinded, infected with STDs, HIV & AIDS)  Malnutrition  Neurological, Psychological & mental disorders  Drugged up child soldiers.  Depression, suicidal behavior & sleep disorders

7 Effect of the war on women Effect was three-fold: Anger: Women mainstreamed into male-dominated careers for self protection (female soldiers). “Necessity Empowerment: Women organized into various women groups to carry out peace initiatives ( eg. Leymah Gbowee WIPNET initiative) Boost of confidence: Under war conditions, women were more likely to be abused than killed so we took on roles as breadwinners in very degrading, dangerous and threatening conditions by breaking the storm and finding food and water for our male partners hiding themselves under our cover from the killing spree of the rebels. These factors acted as turning points for women participation in trade unionism after the war

8 Trade Unionism in Post-War Liberia A lot of confusion - Fragmented unions with weak structures. Inter-union disputes on jurisdiction. Unequal scramble for jobs in a recovering economy. Unbalanced struggle for women empowerment within trade unions. Precarious situations of the war was a good leverage for more active involvement of women in post war Liberia

9 Strategies advocacy on policy/ legislative issues Door to door recruitment of women into unions. Mainstreaming women into male dominated careers/jobs. Encouraging women to actively participate in union activities. Trainings & education on leadership/organizing skills. Mentoring promising female trade unionists. Building a network of male ‘gender friendly’ allies

10 Impact Policy & Legislative advocacy – LLC & UWUL engaging government on DWB (inclusion of informal economy workers) – Inclusion of affirmative clause in DWB – UWUL women leading the fight against worst worker rights abuses in Liberia. Door to Door Recruitment: – Organizing domestic workers 1840 domestic workers recruited Union registered Trained zonal coordinators to facilitate meetings Mobilize around members in difficult times Supporting union to build an office & develop a model contract of employment

11 SC and USW training for domestic workers

12 Impact (Agricultural Sector) Mainstreaming women into Male dominated careers: – Main source of foreign revenue for government= rubber – Firestone Plantation = 1 million acres. total workers 7,938 Female workers 869 union members 4,943 (union estimate) Female workers union member = 404 Work covered b4 the war by women =administration, health. Post War: working the rubber nurseries, bud grafting trees for quality yields, planting, laying out the landscape and planting rubber trees, carrying out pruning, applying chemicals and nurturing rubber trees until ready for harvest. No of women in Rubber Nursery work = 404 (B4 the war = 0)

13 FAWUL… rubber plantation workers (Nursery section)

14 Impact Gender & leadership education: Has worked wonders in empowering women. Gained space for female unionist on CB negotiating tables (eg. ArcerloMittal, Firestone CBAs) Gender equality campaigns: – UWUL supported mass action within Forestry sector. – Staff strength = 418 – No of women = 62 As at 2004 = only 6 women in senior positions = 17 women in senior position Gender desk officers to oversee gender issues

15 Challenges  Liberian Constitution and statutory laws which is characterized by so many gender neutral terms.  Cultural stereotypes/ prevalent discrimination against women  Issues with nursing mothers on plantations  Balancing tasks associated with skilled work and family responsibilities.  Inadequate support from male unionists for women running for elective offices.  Funding for education/awareness programs on gender equality

16 Rebuilding from the ashes!!! … Kazuo Duo


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