BY DEV RAJ DAHAL
Awareness about gender equality is blowing the winds of change, overturning the historical status quo, shattering the grisly gender myths and reshaping women-sensitive policies. The rebellious generation of women has revealed multiple narratives about their experience of freedom, work and recognition. With determination, you can overcome many structural problems, bring political wind at your back and improve leadership position in various layers of social, economic and political structures.
Recent campaign to achieve gender equality and mentoring of young women leaders fits well with the universal spirit of this Age premised on gender and inter-generational justice. This Age needs a mindful resolve to act with seriousness of purpose and full awareness of the responsibility allowing your leadership to grow to a new height. This act demands enlightenment, assertiveness, skill and resources to carry the institutional tasks of the union. A strategy to build the successor generation of women can unlock your strength in closing the persistent gender gap in the labor market, acquire positional mobility and finally achieve institutional change. The increased flexibility in the labor market has largely benefitted the employers while shifting social risks to workers, many of whom are women. A vibrant union movement, informed by success stories, can break the economic monopoly, spread political power throughout society and create a sustainable base of democracy.
Training of young women leaders requires sharing of both experiences and wisdom from the senior generation of leaders while transmitting adaptive knowledge to fit with technological and values change. Women tend to excel in learning, analyzing issues, consensus-building, problem solving and financial performance. They make up more than half of the work force but their number in top leadership position is few. The reasons are many: public prejudice, denial of space, lack of enough courage, shortage of opportunity and their engagement in household works, informal sectors and low paying jobs. But there are also certain progress that needs to be tapped:
Rights-based universalism spurs women’s liberty: Global inequality has increased. This constrains liberty of those at the bottom of social and economic hierarchy. Enjoyment of liberty demands intelligence, skills and agencies. Rights-based universalism justifies your aspiration but also entails a sense of duty for the realization of the hopes of those working in difficult jobs of building, construction and woodwork. The horrifying tales of migrant women workers daily hit the global media headlines beyond our imagination. For many women working in rural areas, life has become a natural selection—uphill struggle for survival all the way from childhood, youth to old age, until finally life comes to a full stop. It is immoral to defend an order in which women are exiled from the blessings of civilized life, its elegance and its amenities. You can become an agency of their voice, visibility and recognition.
Law-based regimes props up women’s equality: Law cannot make women and men equal unless institutional change is attuned to gender equality in every sphere of life. Creation of a just world at various levels of society requires making laws actionable and justiceable and preparing women for future generation of leadership by educating them to the normative values of labor, democracy, human rights, social justice and peace. These values enable you to justify struggle and choose your own path of life. But self-improvement of working women requires engaging them in building awareness about labor issues, active participation in unions and prevail in decision-making and execution.
Reflection-based education improves women’s condition: There is a need to change the purpose of education itself from its solely training of the elites to injecting a public interest to enlighten the young working boys and girls enabling them to transform their abject conditions. Education illuminates our inner vigilance and sets us free from archaic institutional and social norms that are barriers to rational progress. Leadership training refines the relational skills enabling you to dream, team up with others and struggle to change the inertia of society, economy and polity that are barriers to empowerment. Building the successor generation of women leadership in the trade union means fostering a self-reliant generation with the ability to think, connect and fight for equity and sustainable progress.
Building genuine strategy empowers women: Young women workers must acquire practical skill, moral spirit and good heart, to struggle in the sphere of labor and work through a shared idealism of freedom and to assume leadership and responsibility at multi-level union committees. Capability approach has set certain universal values—right to life, bodily health and integrity, social security, property and political participation. Mainstreaming of gender in the “policies, activities and programs” of each nation-state provides you with knowledge about these and a road map to march towards your ideal future.
Self-confidence enables women to execute transformation: Leadership is an opportunity to influence the culture of union politics and work. You can learn the responsibility at various spheres of life. Leadership in the sphere of work differs from other spheres. Yourvision, role and strategy for gender restructuring of the political economy is transformational. This approach assists you in building competence to the perfection of life, motivating life partner and building ties with like-minded groups to gain political will to act. These leadership qualities are critical now in a highly networked, high-speed, interdependent global economy.
Gender justice expands democratic space: The most obvious obstacle to the rise of women in union leadership roles is the degree to which political and corporate cultures are constructed. Autocratic leaders close democratic space and weaken its impulse while corporate culture still rewards long work hours and imposes a rigid set of standards where women cannot balance multi-tasks: care giving works for family and children, job in the labor market, duty for aging parents and finding a fulfilling public role. Men can naturally sacrifice their social duty for their leadership career. Women feel that the cost of sacrifice to their families is too high to afford. In the context of huge glass ceiling in high professional areas, young women require removing the confidence gap, training in leadership lessons and experience of taking various steps. Gender justice assumes pro-active young women’s engagement in party politics, law making process of the parliament and development policy making undertaken mainly by think tanks and planning commissions
Attitude change incubates civic culture: Democratic innovation reorients the society to a changed attitude which enables you to carry the burden and benefits of leadership in the spirit of law-based freedom. Working young women need to build network with female leaders in the union to shift the power balance. A disconnected life is an insecure life. I hope, this global conference will provide you warm links to forge future solidarity and spur your strength in upholding your vision, spirit and justification. Your global links will help you to navigate safe career paths in leadership and inspire others to join in your vision. This will obviously help you to move from the brush of ‘past imperfect’ to a leap into ‘perfect future.’
(Text of the address by Dahal, Head, FES Nepal, at BWI-FES Global Women’s Conference 2016 held in Kathmandu on June 25-27, 2016.)
Building the successor generation of women in leadership
BY DEV RAJ DAHAL