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CUPE is joining with women trade unionists from around the world to address the global crisis of violence against women. Eighty-five women from 27 countries are participating at the March 4-15 Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) in New York City. The delegation represents over 70 million workers worldwide.

CUPE’s Director of Equality, Elizabeth Dandy, is there representing CUPE as part of of a Canadian delegation organized by the Canadian Labour Congress. The session is focused on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

Violence against women is the most prevalent human rights violation in the world today. According to UN statistics, one in three women will be the victim of gender-based violence in her lifetime. That’s one billion women.

Under the banner “No more words, time for action,” union women at the UNCSW will be putting pressure on all governments, including Canada, to adopt a strong statement that commits governments to uphold the human right to be free of gender-based violence.

Unions are central to ending gender-based violence in the workplace, including sexual harassment and the potential spill-over of domestic violence into work sites.

Decent work for women is also a key priority. Decent work includes an employment contract that is free from sexist, racist and other forms of discrimination. It includes secure, full-time employment; good, equitable wages; full benefits; and good pensions.

Economic empowerment enables women to leave violent domestic situations, and speak out with confidence against violence in their workplaces.

The delegation is also promoting public services as a crucial part of the solution to preventing and ending violence against women. Public services support women’s economic independence. They are vital for women who are victims of violence. Public education is important for addressing gender stereotyping and promoting respectful relationships.

Women at the UNCSW are also standing in solidarity with indigenous women across the globe, including Aboriginal women in Canada, who are advocating for the recognition and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Implementation of the declaration is a key part of the struggle to end the global crisis of violence against women.

 In Canada, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has documented 582 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls across Canada as of March 2010, before funding for their database was cut by the Harper government. NWAC has also found a discriminatory lack of access to justice for Aboriginal women. Only 53 per cent of the documented murders of Aboriginal women have been solved, compared to 84 per cent of all murder cases across the country.

What can you do?

  • Ensure your collective agreement has strong language on discrimination, harassment, violence in the workplace, pay equity, benefits, pensions, family leave, and paid leave to deal with domestic violence. Find sample language in Bargaining Equality: A workplace for all
  • Let us profile your story on how you’ve fought for women’s equality. Email us at equality@cupe.ca
  • Follow the UNCSW57 blog, A Union Perspective
  • Sign the Native Women’s Association of Canada petition for a national inquiryinto missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.