With the participation of women leaders of three labor unions and a numbers of media women and civil activists, and as a part of Shahrazad campaign activities, the Iraqi Women Journalist Forum organized a seminar in cooperation with the Solidarity Center and the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) and the Italian Organization “Un Ponte Per…” about working women’s rights in the new labor law No. 37 of 2015, on Saturday, 23 July 2016. The unions participated in the seminar were: The General Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions (GFITU), Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI), and the General Federation of Workers’ Unions in Iraq (GFWUI).
The seminar was opened by an introduction on Shahrazad Project concerned with the protection and safety of journalists and women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in Iraq, and the role of the legal clinic in providing legal advices and consultations, followed by presenting some legal working papers submitted by the lawyer Raja Abd Ali, the director of the legal clinic at the Iraqi Women Journalist Forum as well as information papers presented by the president of IWJF Ms. Nibras Al-Maamouri and Wesam Chaseb Odeh, the director of the Iraq Program at the Solidarity Center.
The seminar dealt with the most prominent material contained in the new Labor Law No. 37 of 2015 concerning the working women and legal protections afforded to women, as well as systemizing the relationship between workers and their employers, especially for private sector workers, and the articles deal with discrimination in employment, whether because of the gender, origin, opinion, belief, religion, sect, health or economic status. The seminar also discussed the articles that prohibits sexual harassment or any other action that leads to the intimidating of the working environment, in addition to the paid vacations for women, particularly the annual leaves (21 days) and pregnancy and childbirth leaves (98 days) and maternity leaves (one year without pay) and fully paid leaves for women after her husband’s death (130 days), also preventing women’s work at night, except for few exceptions, and ensuring the return of the working women to her work at the end of pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave. The articles related to the prevention of child labor and forcing women to do the hard work was also presented in the seminar.
Speakers stressed the importance of this law to reform the situation of workers in Iraq as stipulated in international labor standards, and the importance to follow-up the law enforcement on the ground, especially that since its approval in 2015 and so far, the law has not been enforced in an optimal way, where violations of workers’ rights are still exist and continue, especially in the private sector. As well as the breadth of the size of the informal labor sector in Iraq dramatically, where specialists in labor issues assert that there are millions of workers in the informal labor sector working without any legal protections or social guarantees.
The seminar also highlighted the role of media in the education and the mobilization of public opinion on women’s rights according to the labor law and the importance of improving the image of women in the media, basing on the study of The Iraqi Women Journalist Forum that was dedicated to the issue of changing the stereotypical image of the woman. In addition to other safeguards guaranteed by this law which aims to give justice to the workers in general, and women in particular, and make the labor law more comprehensive to include all workers except of those working in accordance with the Civil Service Law or Military and special laws, this will include media women other categories who were not included in the legal protections before the issuance of this law.
After wide discussions and debates between the participants, the seminar came out with suggestions and recommendations, the most important were: Intensify the work and coordination between the trade unions and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in order to follow the enforcement of the labor law, and the importance of strengthening the oversight role of Parliament and conducting educational and awareness and for the working class, and produce programs and media reports for male and female workers in various sectors to explain the role of the new law. Participants stressed the importance of the media as an effective tool for the dissemination of legal culture among workers and educate workers about their rights.
At the end of the seminar, The Iraqi Women Journalist Forum invited the women leaders of the trade unions to take advantage of the Legal Clinic of Shahrazad center, and to be involved in the next trainings and activities to be hosted by the Forum for the protection and safety of women journalists and human rights defenders.