Coming Full Circle - Connecting the Generations: NUPGE Women's Conference

The conference was packed with insights from the National Union’s research into issues facing women workers in Canada ranging from pay equity, job security, pensions, child care, caregiving and gender-based violence. 

Ottawa (25 Feb. 2019) — Seventy-five women from across Canada met in Ottawa from February 20–23 at the Coming Full Circle — Connecting the Generations conference hosted by the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

Jen Grant

The conference was kicked off by Jen Grant, a talented comedian, who focused on the positive side of life. She brought her experience using humour as a way to de-escalate tension, to lend levity to get through difficult moments, and to connect with people on a more human level. 

"Being vulnerable lets people see you more clearly and breaks down the false barriers between us," said Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer. 

New research unveiled on generational shift

The conference was packed with insights from the National Union’s research into issues facing women workers in Canada. These issues ranged from pay equity, job security, pensions, child care, caregiving and gender-based violence. 

NUPGE also launched a new research project on bridging the generational divide between young and established workers. The data compiled from a national survey will be analyzed further and shared widely to help unions make the generational shift more smoothly.

In a session facilitated by Barb Byers, former secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress and SGEU/NUPGE member, participants worked in groups to find ways unions can take on issues that relate to both younger and older workers. Ideas easily flowed, as people took to heart Grant's statement, "We are more similar than we are different." Campaigns were born out of the collaboration, and women were energized to go back to their regions with a new perspective on working with the different generations. 

Nadia Ibrahim reporting on women and precarious work
Nadia Ibrahim reporting on the
issues facing women in Canada.
Barb Byers, former CLC Secretary-Treasurer and SGEU member
Barb Byers, former CLC secretary-treasurer,  
Young worker participating in group session
Young workers participating in group session
NUPGE's newest member
NUPGE's newest member

Connecting internationally

On Friday morning, participants were introduced to Razia Sultana, the founder of Rohingya Women Welfare Society. Sultana is a lawyer, human rights advocate, researcher and educator specializing in sexual violence (specifically mass rape), trauma, state violence and the trafficking of Rohingya girls and women. Since 2014, she has spoken out for the rights of her people, and worked with some of the 725,000 Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

As a volunteer researcher for Kaladan Press, an independent news service focusing on Myanmar and Rohingya-related issues, she has fearlessly documented the stories of those victimized by waves of government and army violence in Myanmar.

Sultana moved people’s minds and hearts as she shared the stories of women in the refugee camps, and her struggle to alert the international community to the atrocities taking place. NUPGE committed to work with its Components to pressure the Canadian government to support the grassroots work going on in the camps, and to demand that Canada stands up for the women who have faced torture. To date, leaders around the globe have ignored the trauma Rohingya women are experiencing. 

Sultana spoke with compassion, bravery and heartache of the women she works with who are trying to build a better life, even as they hide from further abuse. “Women just want to go home.”

The National Union will be bringing Sultana back to Canada in June to have her speak to delegates at its National Convention in Winnipeg.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE