Gender Equality Campaigns

By the 2000s, women affiliated with KESK had accumulated significant knowledge and experience. They organized large rallies on March 8th. Their communication with the independent women’s movement, feminist academics, and their relationships with international union organizations empowered women within the unions and assisted in developing strategies for gender equality. In their Women’s Congress held in 1998, they identified the problems faced by women working in the public sector. They decided to organize equality campaigns to address these issues.

The campaigns organized in 2001 were a product of this accumulated knowledge and served multiple functions. Unions realized the importance of women’s union participation and equal representation. Women recognized the significance of union organization and gained confidence in unions.

Themes related to gender equality became visible and discussed in workplaces. Campaign activities combined organization with street demonstrations and actions. Mass press releases were made, collective letters were sent to parliamentarians, and nationwide events like the Pants Protest were organized. Public awareness regarding the equality demands of working women was raised.

Panels, seminars, and workshops on campaign themes were organized, serving an educational function. The campaigns resulted in concrete gains such as extended maternity leaves or the end of the pants ban, which increased the interest of public sector women in unions, leading to a rise in the percentage of women union members.

Awareness of gender equality spread within KESK as well. Campaigns generally focused on developing demands to achieve gender equality in public institutions, which expanded their impact. For example, demands were made for the consideration of gender equality in the curricula of Education Faculties, in-service training for teachers, and the preparation of primary and secondary school curricula.

The synergy created by the campaigns positively influenced other union activities in principle. However, campaigns were primarily led by women secretaries and women members. The fight against gender inequality continued to be seen as the responsibility of women.

Campaigns strengthened the relationships and collaborations of KESK women with independent women’s organizations and feminist academics. They provided experience in lobbying. Tangible successes from the campaigns increased the self-confidence of KESK women, encouraging them to express equality demands more loudly within the union.

Numerous campaigns have been organized from 2001 to the present. Those organized in the 2000s were particularly effective. Despite intense efforts in subsequent years, important campaigns could not achieve the same level of effectiveness. This situation stemmed from factors that narrowed KESK’s organizational scope:

  1. Privatization of public services and reduction of the scope of social services.
  2. Closure of many public institutions or reduction of employment.
  3. Operations were carried out to portray KESK as guilty.
  4. Advantages offered to government-friendly unions negatively affected workplace organization and KESK’s bargaining power.
  5. The increasingly tense and repressive political atmosphere in the country diminished the impact of equality campaigns.

Since the 2010s, governments have developed a negative attitude towards gender equality. For example, demands for childcare facilities for public employees were not met; instead, existing childcare facilities were closed. The idea that motherhood is women’s most important career was expressed.

Three examples of campaigns led by KESK women: