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Day 6 at the Commission on the Status of Women was a reminder for Keira of the importance of and challenges associated with standing up for your rights and collective action. 


Keira Jenkins

Today, I had a lesson in perspective. I saw two very strong and inspirational women speak during a session on womens cultural, social and human rights at work. Arlyn Duhaylungsod, from the Phillipines, works 72 hour weeks, and her pay rate is about $5 a day. She works in a factory that produces plastic goods and has no job a security. Once 'fees' for insurance and uniform are taken off her wage, Ms Duhaylungsod only takes home about $2 at the end of the day.

"I work 12 hours every day, and only get a one hour break. By the time I can't move because I am standing all day, I can't eat. I have no energy," she said. "When I go home I want to help my children with their homework but I can't. I get about four to five hours of sleep each night then I get up at 1am so I can prepare my kids for school before I leave for work."

Ms Duhaylungsod's husband also works in a factory, but she said their combined income is still not enough to comfortably support their family. "When I asked why my pay was so low I was dismissed," she said.

"I filed a case to the court and I won. I was reinstated and paid compensation for the wages I was being underpayed. I kept up my fight and I always remind my fellow women in the factory to stay strong and fight for their rights."

Nazma Akter started working in a garment factory in Bangladesh when she was 11 with her mother. As a child, she worked linger hours than some of the adults, and was also paid very little. At 13 she started to organise a union movement. "I lost my job, and my mum lost her job. We were blacklisted and I couldnt find another factory job," she said.

"In the factory I was being paid $68 a month and working 12 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week. 80% of factory workers are female. That means women have no job security."

Now Ms Akter is encouraging these women to join unions and to fight for better working conditions. "When they are empowered women build confidence, and they can create change," she said. "Without raising their voice, without putting up a fight, there will be no change. All our brothers and sisters must come together to join us on this fight." 


With thanks to the sponsors that made our young women reps' trip possible: