A voice

Ahma Refaat, an Egyptian trade unionist from Cairo, has fought for social justice for decades.

The first time I was arrested was in 1977 while protesting the bread price increase under President Anwar Sadat.

Refaat has been arrested countless times since then, most recently during the 25 January 2011 protests that ushered in Egypt's first democratically elected government.

One outcome of the mass protests was the formation of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, breaking a six-decade state monopoly on the trade union movement. Scores more independent trade unions have since emerged.

But the revolution is still not over for Refaat and other activists: not until workers, employers, and civil society are involved in the policy-making process.

Restrictions on unions must be lifted and social dialogue seriously pursued if we are to make Egypt a place for all Egyptians.


A voice

They didn’t pay me on Sundays, which was extra work,
and I always worked 12 hours a day. In 14 years, I never had holidays.

Felicidad Yugar, domestic worker in Bolivia

The ILO has supported awareness-raising campaigns, such as organizing Sunday fairs that provided information on the rights and duties of domestic workers and their employers. These events also increased recognition of the National Federation of Domestic Workers of Bolivia, and facilitated dialogue between the union and the Ministry of Labour. The dialogue led to the ratification of the Domestic Workers’ Convention, 2011 (No. 189). Boosting both workers’ and employers’ organizations – whose support for reforms is critical – is an important part of the ILO’s assistance.

Arab States

A voice

The economic and financial crises that hit the world in 2008 and the tragedy of mass unemployment they have created in many countries highlighted the relevance of the ILO and its vital role at the socio-economic level globally.

Nidal Katamine - Minister of Labour of Jordan
President of the International Labour Conference, 2013

We believe that the struggle for social justice starts here: protecting vulnerable workers. The transition to democracy that is under way in the Arab region proves that building productive and inclusive societies is a requirement for social stability. The principles of decent work must be at the heart of these transformations.

Nada Al-Nashif, ILO Regional Director for Arab States

Restoring growth, increasing its employment content and strengthening internal demand and making them less volatile in the future are essential for the successful pursuit of the Decent Work Agenda. As we work towards better functioning labour markets, special emphasis must be given to promote gender equality and integration of youth in labour markets.

The Arab Action Agenda for Employment
ILO Regional Office for Arab States website

In addition to official unemployment, we have disguised unemployment… We should move towards social justice in its comprehensive sense, not just in terms of wages.

Egyptian Minister of Planning, Ashraf al-Arabi, Sharm El-Sheikh , September 2013


A voice

Emerging from the ruins of Rana Plaza, Bangladesh

Minu Aktar was one of the victims of the Rana Plaza Collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 and miraculously survived.

Minu AktarShe had been working in Phantom Apparels on the fourth floor of Rana Plaza for four-and-a-half years. She still suffers from physical injuries sustained during the collapse, as well as ongoing trauma from being trapped under the building.

Six months on, however, Minu is starting to overcome her grief with the support of her family and through an ILO programme in partnership with BRAC, a major non-governmental organization, which is equipping survivors with the skills they need to get jobs in local workplaces.

As a result, Minu is now working in a tailor’s shop in Savar, mentored by an ILO/BRAC supervisor and master craftsperson.

Seeing my family, having a job – I finally feel like I am alive again.


A voice
Dragana Milanovic

I am happy that I obtained full-time employment after completing a YEF-sponsored training with Pasin Farm, a local coffee roasting, packing and retail company in Backa Palanka.

Dragana Milanovic (23)