15 February 2005

The General Confederation of Trade Unions extends its heartfelt greetings to women on the occasion of the International Womens Day 8 March, and wishes them good health, prosperity for their families, success in their work and the best of luck.

Women have been playing a significant role in the development of the Newly Independent States. They constitute about half the working population. In the year of the 60th anniversary of our victory in the Second World War, we bow our heads to all the war participants and, certainly, to women participants whose very nature makes them incompatible with warfare. Womens contribution to upbringing children and care for the aged cannot be overestimated. They exert considerable influence on the development of civil society while promoting deeper understanding of gender equality aspects and their practical realisation.

The observance of the International Womens Day in 2005 is of special significance. Ten years ago the 4th UN World Conference on Women in Beijing adopted a Platform for Action. Last year the world marked 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Hence, this year is a year of summing up the work done over the period. In this connection, the ECOSOC Commission on the Status of Women will hold an enlarged session under the banner Beijing + 10.

The General Confederation of Trade Unions notes the positive changes in solving womens problems in the CIS countries. National plans and programmes to improve the status of women have been adopted and are being implemented. A number of states have elaborated mechanisms for the development, implementation, monitoring, assessment and promotion of policies improving the situation of women. Laws on equal rights and opportunities for men and women have been adopted in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Similar laws are being developed in Russia, Ukraine and Georgia. The CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly is presently considering a relevant model law submitted by the CIS trade unions. The role of trade unions in improving the status of women is growing, and they take firm and consistent stands on the issue in collective bargaining.

Simultaneously, the GCTU notes that there is still a wide gap between the proclaimed principles and the actual state of affairs. Some of the national plans and programmes are of a declarative character and lack adequate funding. Women are hard hit by the ill-conceived economic reforms. Female unemployment is still high, and womens incomes are much lower than mens. The specific requirements for womens health and safety are not always met. In most CIS countries, the minimum wages do not match the subsistence minimum, which increases the number of poor and low-income families, and primarily the families where the mother brings up her children alone. Poverty forces women into informal business, particularly in the sex-services industry (where they often become victims of slave-trade) and drug trafficking. Dire straits compel women to become illegal migrant workers, with all the ensuing consequences. All this not only ruins womens lives, but also creates an unfavourable demographic situation in many CIS countries. The current healthcare and education reforms also fall short of the populations expectations.

While expressing its concern over all the issues relating to discrimination against women, the GCTU reiterates its resolution to continue its struggle for implementing the aims and objectives defined in international instruments, including the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Beijing Platform for Action.

The General Confederation of Trade Unions appeals to all its affiliates to step up their fight against any forms of discrimination against women in the labour market, struggle for equal pay for equal work and genuine gender equality, and take measures to get the collective agreements implemented.

The General Confederation of Trade Unions urges the affiliated national trade union centers and industrial trade union internationals to promote the development of womens organisations in trade union structures, advance the most active women to leading union positions, and seek a balanced representation of women and men in higher trade union bodies. In conjunction with womens non-governmental organisations trade unions are called upon to enhance the political role and social status of women, and eliminate all forms of discrimination against women in the sphere of labour. The GCTU expresses its firm conviction that the CIS trade unions will resolutely defend genuine gender equality, regarding it as an important tool in their struggles for social justice and against poverty and diseases.

We are confident that working women in the CIS countries will make a worthy contribution to the economic and social development of their nations and peoples, and in this way make it possible to attain prosperity and decent life for the whole of society.