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International Women's Day 2022: it's time to #DemandBetter

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International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, political, and cultural achievements of women around the world; but women still face significant discrimination in the workplace and wider society.

It is critical to raise awareness today on the continued inequality faced by women and to rally calls for action to accelerate equality.

We have seen women at the sharp end of the pandemic, on the frontline as key workers, and taking on an even more disproportionate burden of care and domestic work in the home.

We know that many women face multiple forms of discrimination with racial and gender inequalities intersecting, highlighted by evidence that BME women have had both the highest rate of unemployment (8.8 per cent) and the lowest rate of employment (62.5 per cent) throughout the pandemic.

Disabled women continue to be excluded from the labour market, demonstrated by the 52 per cent employment rate for disabled women workers compared to 85 per cent for white, non-disabled men.

The gender pay gap persists at 15.4 per cent, and the gender pensions gap is more than twice that, at 37.8 per cent.

We know that 54,000 women are forced out of the labour market every year due to pregnancy and maternity discrimination. And 1 million women have been forced to leave their jobs due to the lack of support for them while experiencing menopause.

Currently, only two in ten jobs are advertised as flexible. TUC research shows that half of working mums had had their flexible working request fully or partially turned down by their employer.

Violence against women extends into the workplace with half of all women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, rising to 7 in 10 for disabled women. One in eight LBT women have experienced serious sexual assault while at work.

Globally, increasingly authoritarian governments promote anti-feminist, racist, anti-migrant, and homophobic narratives. This has led to a global crackdown on reproductive, sexual and human rights that disproportionately effect women, girls and LGBT+ communities.

This year alone, we have seen attacks on same sex marriage and LGBT+ freedoms across Europe, legislation restricting abortion and contraception in the US, a new crisis of education in North Africa and the Middle East and yet more violence and harassment of trade unionists across Latin America.

As conflicts continue in Syria, Palestine and Afghanistan and new ones unfold in the Ukraine, we see women and girls have their  freedom shattered  and safety removed. But we also see our international sisters fighting back. In Honduras, a female progressive president has been elected, ending the 12 years of right-wing rule which followed the 2009 coup. Today in Pakistan, for the fifth year running, thousands of women will take to the streets for the Aurat March. This year, they will be protesting this year for increased wages, security and peace for women-- incredibly powerful, given it was here that Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for attempting to attend school. In the U.S, after years of legal battles, the women's national soccer team have settled a dispute on unequal pay compared to the men's team to the tune of $24m. And, in February this year, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that establishes a collaborative partnership to improve occupational safety and health training and knowledge for women who depend on coffee production for their livelihoods across the globe.

Here in the UK, trade unions led calls for and won the commitment from government to introduce a preventative duty on employers, forcing employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces.

And we finally got the government to commit to ratifying ILO C190, which recognises the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence.

We also have seen landmark wins on equal pay for work of equal value. We lobbied for guidance on risk assessments make clear that employers must carry out individual risk assessments for pregnant and new mothers in the workplace. And our campaign saw over 7000 responses submitted to the government consultation on flexible working.

So yes, there is always more work to do and some days - when progress feels slow - it is tough. But 57 per cent of trade union members are women, and we continue to lead collective action for women’s equality in the workplace, in our society and across the world.

Here are just a few actions you can take this International Women’s Day

  • The war in Ukraine is forcing many to flee their homes, putting women and children at heightened risk of violence. Donate to the ITUC emergency fundraising appeal today to help local and neighbouring trade unions provide essential provisions.
  • Join our calls to #demandbetter from companies using International Women’s Day as a marketing gimmick by signing up to our megaphone campaign.
  • Download our toolkit on tackling sexual harassment in the workplace and building preventative cultures.
  • Join a trade union

This International Women’s Day, we must remember and celebrate our hard fought for wins and continue to organise and agitate. And from our brothers and allies we need not just their solidarity, but their action.

As our sisters said before us: ‘Deeds not Words’.

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