GENDER EQUITY POLICY OF NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS
ADOPTED IN FEBRUARY 2003
The 8th delegates conference of Nigeria Labour
Congress which held in February 2003 provided a watershed in the struggle of
women workers for concrete affirmative action to involve them in the affairs of
Congress. That Conference debated and adopted a number of policies including “The
Gender Equity Policy“.
It also amended the Congress Constitution and
provided for a National Women Commission whose Chairperson “shall have the
status of Vice President of NLC, and shall enjoy all rights, duties and
responsibilities accruing to the position”.
In addition two motions on women representation in
the leadership structure” and “Gender and Gender Issues” moved
by the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Allied Institutions (NASU);
and the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers (NUTGTW) and
co-sponsored by the National Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees
(NUFBTE) respectively called for concerted efforts on the part of the unions
and the NLC “to ensure that they meet the 30% representation of women in
all leadership structure as stated in the “NLC Gender Equity
The second motion similarly called for the
incorporation of a strong gender perspective in NLC and union constitutions as
well as a policy of affirmative action for women to be represented in all
relevant organs. Both motions were debated and adopted.
The Nigeria Labour Congress went on to organize a
National Gender Conference in September 2003, which constituted the leadership
of the National Women Commission. The Chairperson of the Commission has since
assumed her position in the National Administrative Council (NAC) of Congress
as a Vice President.
Earlier the National Executive Council (NEC) of
Congress in its March 2001 meeting at Umuahia decided that Chairpersons and
Secretaries of State Women Committees should be admitted into the States
Administrative Councils (SACS)
In this publication, we have reproduced “The
Gender Equality Policy, and the Programme of Action for the National
Women Commission, which was adopted at the National Gender Conference of
Congress held in September 2003 at Bauchi
The Programme of Action enumerated various actions
and activities which industrial unions, Congress and the National Women
Commission need to take in order to actualize the ideals contained in the
Gender Equity Policy
It is our hope that the publication of the
proceedings of the conference will prove useful to affiliate unions and all the
officers charged with the responsibility of doing gender work, in refocusing
the direction of their work to achieve gender equity and full participation of
women workers in the activities of trade unions across the country.
John Ejoha Odah
POLICY ON GENDER EQUITY
Like most societies in the world, Nigerian society is patriarchal. Although, the level of this patriarchy may differ in relative terms from one Nigerian community to another, all modern public and private institutions in the country are infused with this patriarchal culture. This has been the result of both the traditional system and colonial experience. Gender discrimination, sexual exploitation and the denials of life’s opportunities to women are being presented as part of this culture that should be preserved. Gender inequality is the result of unjust economic, political and social relations.
Women are educated to believe in and accept an
inferior social status. In most Nigerian communities, they have no right to
land, inheritance of family property and equal opportunity to education. In
modern employment, they are marginalised to the lower cadre of the public and
private establishments and the .care and nurturing departments and sectors. In
most sectors, it is unofficially understood that women cannot attain certain
leadership positions. In addition, women receive lower pay for equal work. Generally,
there are various forms of discrimination against the child e.g. denial of
child education, child labour and early marriage.
Other various forms of gender abuses against women
include, violence and negative widowhood practices that diminish the status and
well being of women. In summary, there are social, cultural and religious
beliefs and practices, which do not enable women to realise their full
potentials. In the trade unions, the gap between men and women is a reflection
of the beliefs and practices in the wider society. Although, trade unions are
supposed to be democratic and empowering organisations, there is, ironically, a
lack of awareness of gender issues amongst members.’ Consequently, negative
gender practices are common.
These negative gender practices are well
entrenched. Women have little representation at the leadership level and
decision-making bodies; where they manage to feature, they are elected or
appointed into the “women’s socially expected roles of welfare officers or
treasurers”. Issues sensitive to women do not get the required attention.
Lately, things have started to change. There is a
growing awareness about women’s rights and the need for affirmative action. The
trade unions have been drawn into the growing debates and activities on these
issues and must provide leadership in the struggle for gender equity and
2. Policy Focus
Policy issues arising from the need to address the
above problems can be broadly categorised into the following main themes:
review to include the gender perspective
framework of Action.
Bridges of co-operation
These policy steps shall be broadly undertaken and
recognised through a gender clause contained in the NLC Constitution.
3. Adoption of a Gender Clause
A strategy for the greater inclusion of women
within the NLC shall begin with an amendment of the constitution of the NLC and
all existing trade unions in the country to include a definite gender clause.
The basis for this is founded on a genuine desire to mainstream women and
ensure their participation at all levels of the NLC.
This principle of the gender clause shall permeate
all actions, policies and activities of empowerment within the NLC. The content
of the Gender Clause shall also be reflected in the NLC Mission Statement.
4 The Gender Clause
The NLC affirms its belief and respect for equal opportunities
for all Nigerians regardless of gender. The NLC recognises the peculiar nature
of women’s roles as affecting their ability or inability to participate
effectively in the public sphere. Empowerment of women should, therefore, begin
from a re-examination of the place of women within Nigerian Society. The NLC
is, therefore, committed to building a world where gender justice reigns, which
recognises that change for women within the labour movement demands an internal
restructuring; complemented by external working partnerships. Gender
justice, as a cardinal principle of Congress, shall mean equal access to
employment opportunities, absence of discriminatory practices against both
genders and recognition of the productive and reproductive roles of each gender.
5 Internal Restructuring
The framework for achieving gender justice in the
work place and in the NLC through internal structuring shall be based on the
committed and detailed implementation of the following Plan of Action.
NLC and each of its affiliates shall urgently review their constitutions to
ensure that the language and provisions of the constitutions provide .for and
promote gender justice at the highest level.
NLC shall implement its decision on the establishment and role of a Women’s
Commission at the national level as a matter of urgency. The Commission shall
not be a parallel structure to those currently existing in the NLC, and its
goals shall include promoting awareness among women.
NLC shall, from time to time, facilitate national conferences, research and
surveys on women. The conferences shall bring together government officials,
employers, organized under the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association
(NECA), Trade Unions, organized under the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Senior
Staff Consultative Association (SESCAN), Academic Staff Union of Universities
(ASUU), Progressive Women’s Organisations and the National Association of
Nigeria Students (NANS).
national conference shall scrutinize employment practices in Nigeria, assess
gender profiles in work organisations and identify supportive instruments that
serve to entrench discriminatory practices against women. The conference shall
also recommend appropriate measures aimed at guaranteeing equal access to
opportunities for all genders as well as explore the possibility of instituting
machinery for monitoring progress made in this regard.
National Conferences, research and surveys shall promote inputs for national
policies on women
f. The NLC shall encourage formal and informal
networking among its women across unions g. NLC shall advocate for budgetary
allocation for the empowerment of women by Government business establishment,
trade Union and civil organisations
the furtherance of the gender programme, the NLC shall engage in all round
advocacies for equal opportunities for women and set targets for their
i. The NLC shall work for legislation that protect
widowhood rights, the right of girls to education and marriage related rights.
6. Human Resource Development
The frame work for achieving gender justice in the
work place and in the NLC through human resources development shall be based on
the committed and detailed implementation of the following Plan of action.
- The NLC shall engage in leadership training for its
women members towards creating a vanguard of articulate and informed women
representatives. The training shall include workshops, exchange programmes,
short courses, and participation at national and international women and labour
- The NLC shall also engage in a phased process of
broad-based gender training for its membership. There shall be put in place a
mechanism to ensure that new knowledge on gender attitudes are cultivated and
sustained at all levels of the Nigerian Trade Union Movement
- The NLC shall reserve positions (at least 30%) of
its leadership at all levels for women. Also the NLC shall champion the process
of ensuring that all trade unions in the country reserve at least 30% of
leadership positions for women.
- To encourage greater women participation in
leadership, the NLC shall adopt a women leadership development programme. Young
women shall be identified through outreach programmes and equipped with the
necessary technical, advocacy, information technology and political skills.
7. Equal Employment Opportunities
- The framework for achieving gender justice in the
work place and in the NLC through equal employment opportunities shall be based
on the commitment and detailed implementation of the following Plan of Action.
- The NLC shall embark on a periodic gender audit at
the state and national levels, which will cover both profile and demography
while encouraging industrial unions to do the same.
- The NLC shall insist on, at least 30% employment
ratio in every sector of the economy for women. Collective bargaining scope
shall be broadened to include the above demands.
- Employers shall be prevailed upon to submit a
biannual gender profile of their organisations.
- The NLC shall offer protection to any employee discriminated
against on the basis of gender. Any employer who discriminates on the basis of
gender will be identified and Congress will initiate necessary sanctions
against such an employer
- NLC will prevail on all establishments to have
genders sensitive regulations and supportive facilities, such as comprehensive
healthcare coverage, including Obstetrics and Gynecology, humane maternity
regime, crèches, and day care centres to reduce the pressure on parents in
employment. The Unions shall lead the way by ensuring that crèches and day care
centres are established in their secretariats.
8. External Partnerships
The framework for achieving gender justice in the
work place and in the NLC through external partnerships shall be based on the
commitment and detailed implementation of the following Plan of Action.
8. 1.Building Bridges of
Co-operation with Civil Society
The NLC shall encourage original initiatives by
women’s NGOs and other civil society, groups aimed at forging working
partnerships between elite and non-elite women in the areas of education,
politics, economy and socio-cultural transformation.
- The NLC shall work with the media towards
encouraging positive media portrayal of gender issues.
- The NLC shall foster research links with the
academia towards supporting research for the development of a database on the
conditions of Nigerian women.
- The NLC shall encourage the establishment of a
gender forum at sectoral levels towards a regular monitoring of governmental
policies on women and employment.
8.2. Governmental Relationship
- The NLC shall set up a machinery to monitor and
analyse all national policies and legislations from a gender perspective
- Respect for international statues on the rights of
women shall be monitored
- The NLC shall encourage gender sensitive policies
- As a first step, the NLC shall provide a labour
gender perspective on the 1999 Constitution
- The NLC in collaboration with other gender
sensitive NGOs, shall work for a bill on the nature of the Federal Character
Commission to guarantee and enforce gender equity and justice.
Programme of Action for National women Commission
1. Affiliate industrial unions should:
- Complete the necessary constitutional reviews to
incorporate a gender perspective for their policies
- Provide constitutional cover for the existing
women’s units at various levels
- Appoint full time officers in charge of gender desk
- Allocate a certain percentage of their budget to
- Reserve a number of positions for women unionists
on their decision-making organs as an interim measure
- Set up women’s unit with clear mandate and
opportunities to show initiative
- Continue to allocate a certain percentage of all
training programmes targeted at general membership or mixed sex groups
- Begin broad based gender training for all members
Monitoring And Evaluating
- One major criticism of the operations of the Gender
Equity policy approved by Congress was that the unions had no monitoring and
evaluating mechanism. There were no measurable targets, such as the proportion
of women members and membership of decision-making bodies.
- It was agreed that the work of monitoring Gender
Equity within the NLC and affiliate unions would be primarily the work of a
Gender Perspective Team made up of selected members of the Women’s Commission
and the Gender Desk Officer. However, other members of the unions, especially
females, should provide input by reporting to the Women’s Commission instances
of progress or lack of progress in the implementation.
- The monitoring should be systematic, regular and
mandatory. A quarterly monitoring exercise is suggested. The evaluation reports
would be submitted to the National Secretariat for deliberation and should be
publicized among the affiliate unions.
2.1. Monitoring Mechanisms
- Records from NLC and affiliate unions would be
required on number of women in unions, number of women in leadership positions,
nature of the position ” executive/non executive, funding for the Women
Commission, adequacy of human resources, activities in the area of gender
carried out â€” targeting members in general, and women specifically,
changes in policy, attendance by women at training programmes, adequacy of
information available to members about policies, procedures and
responsibilities, degree of gender positive work environment in work places of
members and advocacy and Networking activities.
- Visits would be paid by the monitoring team to
state councils and individual unions to monitor items listed above.
3. NLC Gender Desk Officer’s Programme of Action
Programme Of Action For National Women Commission Of Congress
- The affiliate industrial unions should:
- Complete the necessary constitutional reviews into incorporate a gender perspective for their polities.
- Provide constitutional cover for the existing women’s units at various levels
- Appoint full time officers in charge of gender desk.
- Allocate a certain percentage of their budget to gender programmes.
- Reserve a number of positions for women unionists on their decision-making organs as an interim measure.
- Set up women’s units with clear mandate and opportunities to show initiative.
- Continue to allocate a certain percentage of all training programmes targeted at general membership or mixed sex groups.
- Begin broad based gender training for all members.
- Monitoring And Evaluating The Work Of The Women’s Commission
- One major criticism of the operations of the Gender Equity Policy approved by Congress was that union had no monitoring and evaluating mechanism. There were no measurable targets, such as the proportion of women members and membership of decision-making bodies.
- It was agreed that the work of monitoring Gender Equity within the NLC and affiliate unions would be primarily the work of a Gender Perspective Team made up of selected members of the women’s Commission and the Gender Desk Officer. However, other members of the unions, especially females, should provide input by reporting to the Women’s Commission instance of progress or lack of progress in the implementation.
- The monitoring should be systematic, regular and mandatory. A quarterly monitoring exercise is suggested. The evaluation reports would be submitted to the National Secretariat for deliberation and should be publicized among the affiliate unions.
- Monitoring Mechanisms
- Records from NLC and affiliate unions would be required on: number of women in unions, number of women in leadership positions, nature of the position – executive/ non executive, funding for the Women’s Commission, adequacy of human resources, activities in the area of gender carried out – targeting members in general, and women specifically, changes in policy, attendance by women at training programmes, adequacy of information available to members about policies, procedures and responsibilities, degree of gender positive work environment in workplaces of members and advocacy and networking activities.
- Visit would be paid by monitoring team to the state councils and individual unions to monitor items listed above.
- NLC Gender Desk Officers Programme Of Action
3.1 Facilitate the work of the Women’s Commission as its secretary
– keeping records scheduling meetings and facilitating, information sharing among members.
3.2 Work with the Women’s Commission and other allies within the affiliate unions to ensure constitutional reviews to incorporate Gender Equity clauses in the constitution of the NLC and affiliate unions.
3.3 Collaborate with Research Centre of Congress to conduct Gender Audit, including profile and demography of all women in NLC and affiliate unions. The Gender Officer should build a database of membership information with disaggregated data including details on numbers and positions of Women Unionists participating in decision making bodies.
3.4 Liaise with educators in the NLC and affiliate unions organize training for general membership, women unionists and trade groups on the gender perspectives of trade union work e.g. collective bargaining, recruitment, organizing, leadership skills, student and youth education, health and safety, issues capacity building skills in negotiation, communication, use of modern facilities and information technology, fund raising, writing of project proposals, advocacy/ lobbing, networking. Assist in the preparation of the user friendly manuals for engendering union activities.
3.5 Mounting a programme on the NLC Training Module on Gender and Labour Unions could be a useful starting point.
3.6 The gender officers should liaise with individual unions to identify their priority areas for training and advice on material preparation and funding. Education is a critical factor in ensuring the mainstreaming of gender issues in trade union.
3.7 Collaborating with individual unions to facilitate the inauguration and strengthening of their women unit at all levels especially at branch/unit levels. It has been proposed that NLC should, as part of its Education work set up a Gender Education project aimed at assisting unions to set up their own Gender programmes. This will ensure building up of dedicated structures of gender education. The Gender Officer would be instrumental in this. Should liaise with labour organizers to ensure recruitment of more women into the labour unions.
3.8 Ensure adequate funding for women education in NLC and affiliate unions budget according to agreed formulas. Funding for women’s Education, if any, is at present erratic and variable. A major aspect of item 3.7 above is the encouragement of unions to dedicate an adequate amount to women education and abide by such formula.
3.9 Collaborate with women’s coordinator leaders etc of affiliate unions to ensure collective voice of women on the decision making boding. Work for Gender Solidarity and welfare e. g cooperative societies.
3.10 Facilitate networking among women’s units of unions in order to enable them to share experiences. Knowledge and skills. She should disseminate to all unions local and global information related to workers issues especially in relation to women. Publish a newsletter on gender and the Labour movement.
3.11 Prepare proposals for research and capacity building for female unionist including funding. She would need to schedule regular meetings with development and donor agencies.
3.12 Establish a Documentation Centre on Women in the Labour Movement in Nigeria. Collect archival materials. Newspaper articles, books, and journal articles. This is o high priority in order to document the experience of women of the older generation who were active. In the days NTUC and the other labour centres who had passed on.
3.13 Monitor compliance with ILO Conventions relating to women in the workplace, that is, employment policies and practices relating to women in both public and private sector gender profiles, regulations, supportive facilities; monitor the extent of engagement of government ministries and parastatals with gender issues and also bills before the National Assembly and State Assemblies for gender sensitivity and draw attention of appropriate NLC organ or committee to them. Prepare test and evaluate guidelines on gender equality issues.
3.14 Organise at least 1 medium profile event around issues e.g. dialogues for budget analysis from a gender perspective.
3.15 Organise one high profile event (national) around gender relevant issues involving all affiliate unions and relevant organizations.
3.16 Work with NLC’s natural allies e.g. NGO’s, and civil society groups to intiate activities on the status of women.
3.17 Network with international women’s committees/commissions in international trade unions groups
3.18 Attend national and international meetings and training programmes for relevant skills development and training techniques, as opportunities are available.
- National Women Commission Programme
In order to ensure that gender equity is accepted and strengthened within the industrial unions and NLC, the Women’s Commission should undertake the following actions on gender equity clause:
- Engage in advocacy among the leadership of NLC and affiliate unions to ensure the passage of the amendment on gender equity clause;
- Engage in advocacy and lobbing to ensure the passage of constitutional reviews to incorporate various positive affirmative actions to facilitate women’s participation in decision-making bodies
- Ensure the Mainstreaming of gender issues in all aspects of trade union work especially organizing, education, health and safety, research and statistics;
- Ensure the existence of trade unions in the emerging new work organizations such as new generation financial institutions, private hospitals, private schools, hotels in which women are critical issues.
- Ensure the representation of women unionists in collaborative bargaining procedures to ensure that women’s issues are not over looked;
- Ensure the establishment and strengthening of women’s units at all levels of trade unions and educate the generality of membership and the women’s units about the objectives and functions of women’s units about the objectives and functions of women’s units;
- Work closely with trade union educators to ensure the inclusion of a gender perspectives in all training programmes – whether they are for both sexes or women specifics;
- Ensure the allocation of an agreed percentage of the allocation to workers education to women‘s education
- Facilitate capacity building for women unionists in leadership enhancing skills.
- Engage in monitoring programmes for young women trade unionists;
- Organise annual conferences highlighting women’s issues;
- Engage in alliance building within and outside the NLC and affiliate unions to ensure empathy for women’s issues;
- Encourage all unions to engage gender desk officers who are strengthened to execute women’s programmes;
- Organise continuing education programmes for Gender Desk Officers to equip them with the skills and competencies required for their work;
- Canvass the principle of proportionality in representation in decision- making organs in those unions, which have a preponderance of female members.
- Conduct relevant research in gender aspects of work and disseminate the results to trade unions, in order to strengthen all aspects of their work.
- Actively promote alliances with international organizations of Trade Unions because those are catalysts for gender mainstreaming and the driving force of its sustenance.
- Monitor and evaluate the implementation of the equality policies, which the NLC affiliates unions will put in place.