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Union leadership and women

22 May 2012, Posted in NUMSA News

According to Statistics SA, the unions with a higher proportion of female membership still have low representation at national executive committee level.

Almost half (48%) of union members are women, but at national executive committee level only 30% of the leaders are women, while female representation at the level of national office bearers is 29%.

Although women continue to deputise for men, they have their role and responsibilities in the organisation, which is an improvement from standing in only when the president or the general secretary is not available.

Numsa has a woman deputy president, there are two women in senior leadership positions in Cosatu: a deputy president (a Numsa shop steward) and the treasurer.

Numsa has resolved that 20% of leaders from factory to national level should be women. Slowly we will move towards 50% representation of women.

The Numsa gender structure convened a conference in 2011 to deliberate on the state of gender struggles in our union.

The conference passed resolutions on issues of wage equity and the employment of women, health and safety at work and violence against women.

The conference also realised that the challenges which confront women are almost the same globally, and made the following recommendations:

• The WFTU must have its own gender desk in Africa;

• We must develop strategies to organise and recruit more workers, especially women, into the unions; and

• Women must be included in all bargaining teams.

Although our country has good guarantees for gender equality, it is still a very unequal country, and the allocation of resources is an inhibiting factor for most working women.

Although women participate in the economy, they still carry the burden of reproductive care and work. Men have not assumed a greater role in care.

Care of children and the home is still considered in our society, in our policies, in the workplace and even in our unions, to be women’s work – whether paid or unpaid.

Research indicates that in South Africa women still do between two and ten times more care work than men, even when they also work outside their home.

Women representation in Numsa and NUM

Union                  Women members   Women in NEC       Women NOBs

Numsa                  13%                            10%                       17%
NUM                       9%                               9%                       27%

An extract from a Numsa report presented to a TUI women’s meeting in Cuba, 2011.