The ITF Women’s Advocate Programme provides a workplace response to gender-based violence at work and at home that empowers women, as individual survivors but also collectively to lead and shape change.
Women’s advocates are union activists who are trained to support survivors of violence, link them with community supports and advocate for workplace safety planning and job security. They also campaign for prevention in the workplace and with allies in wider society.
Since 2014, a number of ITF unions have been pioneers in the project development of a global women’s advocate programme – based on the successful model developed by Unifor in Canada.
Unifor have negotiated hundreds of workplace women’s advocates who are trained to provide support for women experiencing violence at work or at home.
“No-one should have to lose their job because of abuse. Domestic violence is a union concern and we want our members to come to their union if they need help and support. And we want to make sure that people can keep their job while they deal with their situation. Unfortunately too many women remain silent because of fear, shame or stigma. And co-workers and friends, even if they know what is going on, also remain silent because they don’t know what to do. So what this programme does; is it helps to break that silence and it helps to empower our representatives and give people somebody that they can talk to. We know that if we do this, if we have people functioning in the roles of women’s advocates in workplaces, that we can save lives as well as jobs, and that is a powerful thing.” National Director of Women’s and Human Rights, Canadian Labour Congress, Canada
“SEKO are incredibly proud of the joint work between ourselves, the ITF and the Swedish solidarity support organisation Union to Union. The idea to research the need for women’s advocacy globally was implemented in parallel to a pilot project to work with women bus conductors in Maharashtra, India, and the results following this have been overwhelming. With participation of sisters from seven countries, the ITF were able to show a global need for women’s advocacy in transport unions. The research showed the root of gender-based violence is the same regardless of country and that all transport unions can do more in the work to support women workers and end gender-based violence. With the continued support from Union to Union, the programme is currently developing into a reality for unions in Asia-Pacific and Latin America.” Project partner, (SEKO), Sweden
“My union and I are proud to be pioneers in the development of the ITF women’s advocacy programme. Women activists in my union have felt a growing need for women’s advocacy due to the violence and harassment faced by women ground staff in the airport. Working together with STCLP on this programme has brought our two unions closer together.” Programme participant, Avianca Union (SINTAITRA), Peru
“The development of women’s advocacy has come at an opportune time when we are negotiating collective bargaining agreements (CBA’s) in Peru with LAN airline. The principals of women’s advocacy strongly support what we are asking for women cabin crew workers.” Programme participant, Lan Union (STCLP), Peru
“We are very excited to be developing materials for the women’s advocate programme in my union. Brazil is a huge country with many regional differences and we are aware that we want the materials to reflect this. We have had some communication with women from public services in the Northeast and bank workers unions in the South of Brazil who have developed a community advocate programme for women who are experiencing violence at work. We are looking forward to finalising and piloting our materials for women’s advocates in Brazil.” Programme participant, Brazilian National Union of Airport Workers (SINA), Brazil
“My union NFIR is working closely with other transport unions to develop women’s advocacy in India. Following inspirational achievements by MSTKS within their union, our women’s committee put in a request to our General Secretary to form a ‘Women’s Advocate Committee’ in each of 17 Zonal Railways with all affiliates of NFIR. Member organisations of this group will consist of fellow unions, NGOs, academic institutions, individuals drawn from different fields like legal, security etc, We are delighted this has been agreed and we believe this committee will be an excellent resource for our future women’s advocates.” Programme participant, National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR), India
“My union ITWAN is very proud to be part of an alliance working to develop women’s advocacy in Nepal. We are working closely with our sisters and brothers from Nepal Yatayat Majdur Sangh (NETWON), as well as with a community organisation called ABC Nepal, who work for the rights of women and girls in Nepal with a special focus on preventing human trafficking. In March 2017, during an ITF women’s advocacy workshop in Kathmandu, we were inspired by our sister Nermin Al Sharif who shared tactics for developing women’s advocacy in the current politically unstable country of Libya, and the importance of building alliances. Our two unions and ABC Nepal are sharing our skills and resources to achieve our common goal of developing and implementing women’s advocacy for women drivers.” Programme participant, Independent Transport Workers Association of Nepal (ITWAN), Nepal