Participants' voices: focus on gender

Extract from the statement made by Ghislaine SAIZONOU, Equality and Social Protection Department, African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa), Lomé (TOGO)


Project: “Organisational and institutional capacity building through gender audits for the better advancement of women and gender integration in African trade union confederations affiliated to the ITUC-Africa”, 2011-2014



  • The terms of a real gender mainstreaming in Trade Union Organisations and the resources for their implementation are established;
  • Initial performances on the integration of the gender dimension are established;
  • The crucial inconsistencies and challenges to the integration of gender equality within the target organisations are identified.
  • The current status of the terminology used on the inclusion of gender equality in statutes and  constitutions of confederations and some basic trade unions - federations of 35 audited organisations affiliated to the ITUC-Africa is available;
  • Staff at the audited organisations included the concept of gender and the principle of gender equality and equity in both ideas and actions;
  • Three networks of trade unions managers consisting for the most part of women to carry out gender audits were set up in the sub-regions (French-speaking West Africa, English-speaking Africa and Central Africa and Islands networks)
  • A trade union expert unit on participatory gender audits is available;
  • The deconstruction of preconceived ideas on gender was carried out with participants; gender is no longer just about women;
  • Leaders have been made aware allowing a change in the trade union environment that takes the gender dimension into account;
  • Female trade unionists have become aware of the need to have elective power;
  • A trade union network for women in West Africa has been created.


These audits have highlighted the poor technical capacity of women as human resources, the limited level of knowledge women and men have of national and international conventions and legal instruments, the limit of focal points in the use of new information technology and the regularity of communication with the ITUC-Africa headquarters, the capitalisation of their labour through the production of items and their official inclusion in policy-making bodies.



  • Membership of audited trade union organisations through the change shown in tacit agreements to hold audits;
  • The development of solidarity and the exchange of good practices between women’s committees nationally and in some countries; the collaboration between women’s committees nationally is more visible and is demonstrated through joint actions;
  • This solidarity inspires the men in charge at the central trade unions (Senegal, Burkina Faso and more recently Togo) to promote joint actions;
  • The provision of a bank account (around a dozen already) increasingly for the use of women’s committees to have greater independence in management; this would not have been acceptable or imaginable just a few years ago; (…)
  • The process of revising constitutions/statutes to include quotas and targeted language in the 35 audited trade union structures took off slowly; this can be considered progress due to compliance with the obligatory statutory time periods;
  • The progressive institutionalisation of quotas for women and compliance with 30% of decision-making posts filled by women at the last elections at some confederate offices;
  • The difficulty of applying clear recommendations linked particularly to compliance with statutory rules and the specific lack of financial resources allocated to the performance of strategic plans or actions plans drawn up during audits;
  • Some women in charge used the results of the audits to generate resources or draw up realistic projects that were financially better designed;
  • The practice of using disaggregated statistics has established itself much slower than was anticipated over the period;
  • (…))



Two meetings specifically for the West Africa sub-region were organised, and were attended by: key officials, including 19 female leaders and committee chairs from organisations affiliated to the ITUC-Africa at the first,

  • and 50 officials, including 50 female committee chairs from organisations affiliated to the ITUC-Africa at the second

The follow-up meetings identified and allowed information to be shared on the mechanisms, practices and attitudes that have positively contributed to the integration of the gender dimension in the audited organisations.

The main result of the audit

One has to look at short- and medium-term accompanying projects that take into consideration the results and recommendations of audits before carrying out any serious impact analysis as the recommendations aimed at improving performance suggest concrete actions. This is why, particularly in the West Africa sub-region, we hope that we can set up a real accompanying project with the regional office and ACTRAV.



  • The involvement of the political secretariat of the ITUC-Africa: The general secretaries have been informed by the ITUC-Africa since the start of the process and about the process. The adoption of a strategic plan and action plans annually during the general council is an example
  • After each regional facilitator training, a letter confirms the facilitator and states the result of the action
  • Before each national audit exercise, the ITUC-Africa sends a letter to confirm the audit and financial support for the activity




We were able to find out which leaders and managers had never been trained on gender equality and equity but have been in charge of organisations for many years. It is thus not only the social-cultural obstacles that need to be addressed; there is also serious work that needs to be done in the field of capacity building of both female and male leaders.

Highly outdated documents/rules have been highlighted and need to be revised.

Before the audits, most women’s committees did not have short- and medium-term vision documents allowing them to carry out actions with a broad scope. In spite of having access to an organisational system, the lack of a strategic development plan hinders all the efforts they have made for their members who remain highly determined to improve their situation and their day-to-day circumstances.  The work carried out is currently filling this void.

Even if there are activities, they are still very much fragmented and not integrated; the impact is still poor due to the resources used by partners and the basic performance rate. For example, the failure to meet a 40 or 45% rate of women in decision-making bodies can be mentioned; this is due to a lack of a supported, permanent advocate to clarify misconceptions about gender and taboos some secretary generals at central trade unions have.

Some actions that have been carried out remain highly minimal and fall within the scope of the traditional work of central trade unions. Performance measures of actions on the ground for women are also very difficult to carry out as there are no basic criteria. These are all things we are going to start changing with this work.

The correlation that must exist is most clear in the trade union struggle; promoting women’s power, capacity and position both within the trade union movement and in their professional and social lives.

The taboo of not working with NGOs is progressively been broken through joint actions.

The added value of the exercise also allows us to see the scale of progress nationally on gender equality and the positive arguments that can be drawn from it to make real changes within the trade union board of directors and to create useful alliances.

The key documents that we have read allow us to emphasis the lessons learned and the strength of the coordination of women. They can provide the bases to accelerate the inclusion, extension and development of gender in central trade unions by benefitting from opportunities linked to changes in the field underway nationally, regionally and internationally. Several weaknesses for which solutions must be found have also been identified by actors in the women's committees as well as by the people we met.


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