eneral Secretary of the Commercial, Industrial and Allied Workers Union (CIAWU), Mary Dzinyemba, has called on women leaders of workers unions in the country to put up a gallant fight to ensure that women’s rights are fully respected at the workplace.
Dzinyemba was speaking on March 17, when she presided over this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations for women workers held at Grace Bandawe Conference Centre in Blantyre.
She said the majority of women working for various organisations are experiencing deprivation of their rights at the workplace, which demotivates them and results in reduced work output.
“At workplaces, men have the tendency to look down on women because they think that women cannot do or achieve something significant, which is totally wrong. You see that women are not being promoted on the basis that they are women and instead it is the men who rise above women. Women are also qualified, capable and are doing great things, hence we should be respected as equals.
“Women also make good leaders in different organisations, sometimes even better leaders than men. So, why should someone look down on women?” she wondered.
Dzinyemba said most women continue to be intimidated by men’s negative perception of women on issues of capability, and end up under-performing at the workplace. She urged the women to claim their rights as equal employees at their workplaces.
Dzinyemba, who also came in as a role model for the women, commended some men for supporting women to ascend to various positions of authority within companies and organisations.
“On the other hand, it is sad to note that while we have some men supporting us, a lot of women do not want to support their fellow women to get to certain positions, out of sheer jealousy. Instead, when there is a man and woman contesting for a position, these women always support a man instead of their fellow woman. This makes the men who do not wish us well to conclude that women are divided hence they do not need support,” she stressed.
She then challenged the women to make it a point that they aspire for various leadership positions, in workplaces as well as in politics, so that they can influence decision making that respects the rights of women.
In her remarks, National Coordinator for International Union of Food (IUF), Zione Nyirenda, urged women to use the celebrations to tackle various issues that affect them at workplaces and other organisations they belong to, so that they find lasting solutions to the problems they face.
“Sexual harassment is very high at workplaces in the sense that for one to be employed or even promoted male bosses demand sexual favours or look at beauty and other sex-related features in a woman. This is done without considering that the woman is highly qualified and capable or experienced, it is just a perception that is putting women at a disadvantage.
“As a result, many women who are not interested in selling their bodies for a job or promotion are sidelined or get demotivated by such misconduct, resulting in low productivity,” said Nyirenda.
Commenting on the plight of women and how the commemoration would assist in the fight for their rights, National Organiser for Hotel, Food Processing and Catering Workers Union (HFPCWU), Eunice Chitwanga and HFPCWU Women’s Desk Vice Chairlady, Bertha Halilu, explained that one of the challenges they face is that men do not want to take suggestions from women on various matters, which demotivates women.
They added that in some cases, women are told to resume duties immediately after delivering a baby, instead of giving them the mandatory maternity leave, so that their bodies recover and also the women look after the newly born babies.
On her part, Southern Region Representative for the HFPCWU Women’s Desk, Alice Dzimau, said they would use the celebrations to discuss various issues affecting them and encourage one another to fight on until they gain recognition in the country.
“We are going to see how we can assist one another, because we need to support one another, even in academic advancement, so that we can rise to senior leadership positions and advocate for the rights of women,” she said.
Historically, the fight for women’s rights started with a simple desire for peace by some 100 women from 17 countries who met in 1910. Over the years, the movement has grown and has seen the decision of the United Nations to recognize women in a special way. Countries have also followed suit to safeguard women’s rights, but many of them are still lagging behind in implementation.
The International Women’s Day is part of the activities organized by the International Union of Food (IUF), to celebrate and promote rights of female workers.
The event attracted participants from women desks of CIAWU, HFPCWU, Tobacco Allied Workers Union (TAWU), Sugar Plantations Workers Union and Plantation Agriculture Workers Union across the country.