I had the opportunity to attend and address the extended CEC meeting of the BSNLEU in a Circle recently. The meeting was well attended, the discussions were good, as also the decision to make the 2nd September Strike a full success. It was a well organised meeting.
What hit me was that there was only one woman worker in the meeting among hundreds. She spoke in the meeting and presented the subject matter in a very effective way. I started thinking why the women workers are not coming in to the union activities in a large way.
I remember the old days, may be about 40-50 years back. In the meeting of the telecom unions, there used to be a very good number of women comrades. They were taking an important role also. Of course, a large number of employees in Telecom was women at that time, due to the feminised exchanges and priority given to women operators. It is true that times have changed and that the ratio of women workers has changed.
But that is not the only reason. The main issue is the ban on recruitment implemented about 30 years back. Most of the employees are above 50 years of age. In this age, the women workers have to look after the family, many might have become grandmothers, more responsibility lie upon them etc.
In Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad etc., where still there are large number of women employees, there is a good gathering of women employees in the meetings and conferences. This is to be much appreciated. At the same time, though the number of women employees may be less, there are many other places, where also they attend in adequate numbers.
This shows one thing. If the union leadership sincerely make efforts, it is possible to bring the women workers to the front and active leadership. While Kerala, T.Nadu, W.Bengal, Kolkata etc. circles have formed Mahila Committees in the BSNLEU, most of the other circles have not made that effort. It should be done. At the All India level, while Women’s conventions are held, there is no Women’s Committee so far.
A determined, consistent effort is to be made to bring more women workers in to active union work. It is the responsibility of the leadership. This will benefit the working class very much. I have seen that in many countries, the women cadres take very leading role. One of the Central Trade union, SEWA, is led by women workers. The General Secretary of the Postmen Union (NFTE) is a woman. When the women are called ‘better half’, how can any body, especially progressive unions, ignore them?
Now it is our job to bring maximum number of women employees to the front and leadership. We can do it.