On May Day: We Stand for Dignity at Work

This May Day — Labour Day for so many — the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) stands in solidarity with everyone who experiences violence and harassment in the world of work, everyone who is fighting to end it, and those who are forced to silently endure it. We know that a world without violence is possible. We invite you to join us to create and celebrate that future.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and in less than two months, governments, employers and workers’ representatives of 187 members states will have an historic opportunity to unite and take a crucial step forward to ensuring the elimination of gender-based violence, specifically in the world of work. In June 2019, the ILO-led International Labour Conference will consider the adoption of a new instrument on ending violence and harassment in the world of work.

Despite the prevalence of violence and discrimination against women in the world of work globally, none of the ILO conventions adopted in its 100 years of existence focus specifically on gender-based violence and its direct link to gender-based discrimination. The time is right for the proposed ILO instrument on Violence and Harassment against Women and Men in the World of Work, which has the potential to establish a uniform set of minimum standards that will require states, employers, unions, and other key actors to prevent, identify, and provide redress in cases of gender-based violence in the world of work.

CWGL recognizes the importance and opportunity for leadership in the ILO’s 100th year to ensure that everyone experiences dignity at work, in any work they decide to pursue. We also see the critical need of recognizing the value of all work, including that which is unpaid and under-paid such as women’s unpaid care and domestic work. Further, it is crucial to ensure formal recognition of the existence and impact of domestic and intimate partner violence in a woman’s world of work. As a feminist human rights organization, we are committed to moving beyond awareness of gender-based violence, and demanding greater accountability for ending it. This instrument is one foundational step on this greater journey.

Over 25 years ago feminists and activists from across the world galvanized to demand the recognition of women’s rights as human rights and violence against women as a human rights violation. This was formally achieved at the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights in 1993; this victory was supplemented by political commitments adopted by governments in Cairo on reproductive rights in 1994 and Beijing on a range of women’s human rights concerns in 1995.

These gains reflect formal guarantees of rights in numerous international treaties and have shaped national legal and policy reform in many countries around the world. However, the persistence and pervasiveness of violence and discrimination against women in the world of work globally, which is a negative consequence of how current economic systems and policies are structured, make the adoption of a dedicated international instrument absolutely necessary.

A new instrument from the ILO anchored in the commitments of governments, employers, and unions will be an important step toward accelerating the achievement of gender equality, which based on predictions and at the current pace will take more than 200 years to achieve. Women cannot and should not wait that long for equality and justice.


Join the Effort: #ILOendGBV

This is an important moment for women’s rights organizations to join with labor right’s movements and together support a new instrument that reinforces international legal standards which recognize women’s rights as human rights, and may be used as an additional legal tool for advancing and protecting women’s rights to work and at work, i.e., decent conditions of work.

CWGL is the global coordinator of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, which happens between November 25 and December 10, and is run by more than 6,000 organizations in 187 countries. In response to women’s rights activists who identified the value of a year-round platform to share resources and promote their work to end gender-based violence, CWGL launched www.16dayscampaign.org. This platform supports a shift “from 16 to 365” to fully activate the global community beyond the core 16 days. Beginning in 2018 the 16 Days Campaign offered #ILOendGBV as a global call to action, to support the adoption of an instrument that would be a crucial first step to ending violence and harassment in the world of work.

In the lead-up to the International Labour Conference in June, join us to advocate for a crucial step to end gender-based violence in the world of work.

Download our toolkit and use #ILOendGBV and our social media shareable content to spread the word about this opportunity to advance dignity for all in the world of work.

Follow #ILOendGBV and 16 Days on our social channels for updates and ways to take action, in particular to support partner organizations including the International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAID, and more.

About the Center for Women’s Global Leadership: With feminist values, CWGL strengthens and bridges voices for human rights toward social justice and self-determination. Working at the intersection of gender, human rights, and economic policy, the Center utilizes an intersectional, rights-based approach to strengthen the collective impact to transform civil society. To this end, CWGL operates within a participatory strategy to:

  • Convene those closest to the issue to explore and exchange holistic ideas and solutions;
  • Research with an action-oriented lens, guided by partners and constituencies around the world who are committed to realizing rights for themselves and others; and
  • Advocate with, and for, those traditionally excluded from decision-making, guided by evidence stemming from collective research.