Women face difficult task to win seats on union board in Bahrain


The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) will open tomorrow its biennial assembly culminating with what is expected to be a hotly contested election this year.


Names of candidates are already being floated but hardly are there women unionists gaining a significant clout among the more than 50 trade and company unions expected to participate in the assembly.


“The board remains mostly men. We are hoping that more women candidates will come out,” said Suad Mubarak, chairperson of the GFBTU women’s committee and the only woman currently a member of the federation’s 13-member board.


The biggest difficulty, Mubarak said, is that the women’s bloc in the union is very low despite the fact that women workers have a very serious agenda to propose in the labour market.


“Women membership is just around 15 per cent. But there are so many issues related to the cause of women workers,” she said.


There is a long list of issues related to women on the union agenda, according to Mubarak. Women workers’ issues include maternity and breastfeeding entitlements, health care, leave, and pension issues especially for divorced women workers.
Women workers constitute around 30 per cent of the country’s workforce. Efforts in recent years to recruit women workers, including expatriates, into the unions had not achieved much success.

The federation estimates a membership of at least 20,000 spread out in around 60 company and trade unions.


The current board is headed by Chairman Abdulghaffar Abdulhussein with Salman Mafoodh as vice chairman.


The GFBTU is set to expand the current board membership from 13 to 15 during the two-day assembly.


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