How collective action can bring about change to young urban women

My name is Bridget Dedaa Amemfi. I am a young woman of 25 years who is studying with the hopes of becoming a doctor. I am also a member of the Young Urban Women’s Movement in Accra, Ghana, an organisation which aims to bring together young urban women from the ages of 15 to 35 to create awareness and advocate for young women’s economic security, bodily integrity and the need to recognise, reduce and redistribute unpaid care responsibilities.

Before I became a member of the movement, I went through a lot of economic exploitation in the workplace, was burdened by care responsibilities at home, and I did not have much confidence in myself or any awareness of my sexual rights. I worked as a petrol pump attendant and experienced for myself the ways in which young women are exploited. My pay was often delayed, I was not given safety equipment and even my social security provisions were not paid. My health suffered because of the lack of safety gear and so I had to stop the work.

After I joined the movement, I came to know all the rights that I have and how to advocate for them. I soon discovered that most young women in Ghana have also been economically exploited, sexually harassed at their workplace and are lacking self-confidence.

However, after various trainings and exposure to conferences and workshops, we are now empowered to campaign and advocate for our rights and on issues concerning decent work and unpaid care work, as well as sexual reproductive health and rights and in support of gender-responsive public services.

In Ghana, we are also working with the Ghana Trade Union Congress to know our rights as workers and to strengthen our movement-building process. Thanks to the mobilisation and awareness-building, we now have a group of young urban women ready to fight for change in their own communities.

I recently spoke at the European Development Days in Brussels in a session entitled Stop Gender-Base Violence at Work, organised by the International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAid and the International Labour Organisation. We discussed the main challenges to women’s rights and drew recommendations to end gender-based violence at work from various perspectives.

Amongst the challenges, we identified stigma, the lack of education and vocational skills training, unpaid care responsibilities, economic exploitation and the lack of social security. My recommendations were targeted at both families and states. The former need to address social norms and the redistribution of unpaid care responsibilities within the household.

Meanwhile, states and governments need to acknowledge unpaid care work by adopting appropriate laws and policies, ensuring universal access to gender-responsive public services, including childcare in order to redistribute unpaid care responsibilities between the state and women.

Governments must also ensure access to justice while providing adequate spaces and safeguards for social movements so that our voices are heard, we are protected and we are able to continue mobilising. Collective action, as I have seen for myself in Ghana, can move mountains.