“Violence and harassment happens to all workers, irrespective of your gender,” says Brenda Modise, a union activist in South Africa. “It doesn’t matter whether they are men and women, old young LGBTQI community or anyone, but we are addressing violence and harassment in the world of work against all workers.”
Modise spoke with Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau in first episode of The Solidarity Center Podcast, “Billions of Us, One Just Future,” which highlights conversations with workers (and other smart people) worldwide shaping the workplace for the better.
Front-line Leaders Building a Future Inclusive of All Workers
The Solidarity Center Podcast’s seven-episode season will feature worker advocates from around the world:
- Maximiliano Garcez, a labor rights lawyer who describes workers’ efforts to seek justice following a deadly mining accident in Brazil.
- Adriana Paz, an advocate with the International Domestic Workers Federation who understands firsthand the power of unions in ensuring domestic workers have safe, decent jobs.
- International Trade Union Confederation President Ayuba Wabba, who explores the Nigerian labor movement’s response to the COVID crisis on workers, and discusses the global labor movement’s plans to build back better for workers around the world.
- Preeda, a migrant worker rights activist in Thailand working with unions to help migrant workers meet the challenges of COVID-19.
- Sergey Antusevich, a brave union leader in Belarus working for democratic freedom in a repressive regime.
- Francia Blanco, a domestic worker and trans rights activist reaching marginalized workers through her all-trans domestic workers union.
These front-line leaders will share the steps they are taking to shape their livelihoods at the workplace and in their communities in the face of escalating attacks on democracy and civil rights, and explore how they seek to build a more equitable future, one inclusive of all workers as the COVID-19 pandemic upends structures, systems and societies.
‘Tears of Joy’
In the first episode, Modise shares how she and women unionists around the world campaigned for adoption of an International Labor Organization convention (regulation) on ending gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work, and how they are moving forward the campaign by pushing their governments to ratify Convention 190.
“We need to put more effort as the women in South Africa to make sure that whatever that you have were fought for is going to be realized in South Africa and be incorporated into our own legislation and make sure that it is implemented. We should not only have beautiful legislation, but we should have implementable legislation that we can be able to monitor and evaluate.”
As Modise heard an audio clip of women unionists singing and clapping the moment Convention 190 was adopted in 2019, she reflected on her experience.
“It was a breathtaking moment. We all shed tears. It was tears of joy because remember, when you went into that room as workers of the world, we knew what we wanted, but we didn’t know if the business constituents of the world understand where we are coming from.
“It really feels great, even though the bigger work has not yet started. We really want South Africa to ratify the convention. The work is not going to be ending at ratification. It’s also going to go in terms of after ratification, what next, and that’s where the bigger role and our activism is going to be needed.”
This podcast was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) under Cooperative Agreement No.AID-OAA-L-16-00001 and the opinions expressed herein are those of the participant(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID/USG.