Machineries available for redressal of grievance underutilised, it says

Although great efforts have been made to ensure equality for women in the Indian society — viewed from a broad perspective — it is evident that the gender concerns are on the periphery, than woven into all agendas of both the employer organisations and trade unions.

The male-dominated unions prefer to let the women specific cells deal with gender issues, while women's wings in employer organisations seek to address gender concerns, says a study commissioned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on “Social Dialogue and Gender Equality in India (2009).”

“While there are machineries and processes available for redressal of women's grievance, these remain underutilised. As further evidenced from analysis of collective agreements, it shows that gender concerns are mere additions to the ‘regular' agenda and rarely nuanced to accommodate substantial gender issues. There have been incremental changes in acknowledging the importance of gender equality. But in reality, action is limited to instituting studies or providing concessions to allow participation of women in a range of arenas. The more difficult work of gendering institutions and workplaces is yet to be undertaken in a real and meaningful way,” it says.

The study was analysed at a day-long seminar organised by the ILO in the wake of the “historic” passing of the Women's Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha and its impending introduction in the Lok Sabha. The ILO took the initiative to re-look the institutional mechanisms to ensure that women had an equal participation in the world of work.

Major central trade unions in the country are affiliated to the political parties, which are supporting the Women's Reservation Bill.

Union membership

The report further points out that the large-scale increase in trade union membership in the recent past is attributable to increased unionisation among unorganised or informal/informal workers, where most women are employed.

“While there is a surge in the increase of women membership, this is not adequately reflected in the composition of the leadership, both of the industry level unions and the central trade union organisations. The women representation in collective bargaining at the national level is a pointer to the relatively smaller role played by women within these organisations. Often where delegates are elected to represent the State/union at national meetings, women do not get selected. Many trade unions have, therefore, adopted an informal mole of reserving some seats in such conferences for women and their insistence that local units must send women delegates appear to have paid off,” it says.

The setting up of women's committees/cells/forums has helped focus attention to the specific concerns of women members. However, some of these concerns need to be emphasised in a greater way so that they do not get sidelined in issues of wage revision, leave and seniority matters, which are often seen to be of more pressing importance.

Monitoring of sexual harassment committees, obtaining decent rest rooms and toilets for women, ensuring safety of women employees in sectors such as transport where women drivers and conductors are being recruited, training and skill development for women workers are seen as issues of women's concerns.

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