What you need to know:
- One of the efforts that I have taken with just a month in the office is to propose and expedite the common market protocol draft that demands free movement of laborers across the region,
In her short 30-day tenure since assuming the role of the new International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director for the United Republic of Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, Ms. Caroline Mugalla faces the formidable challenge of advancing social justice in the region.
That Ms. Caroline brings a wealth of hands-on experience in promoting the agenda of the ILO in the region is not in doubt.
A short conversation with the new Director gives the impression that she has the much-needed skill-set and knowledge; especially considering the fact that she worked with all the member states of the East Africa Community in her previous role as the Executive Secretary of the East African Trade Union Confederation.
In expressing her dedication and emphasizing her deep connection to the region, Ms. Mugalla indicates that, “Working with the ILO within this region is just like giving back to where I belong taking in mind my career journey has been honed by the region.”
As a new head in the region, the task that is ahead of her is to pick up where her predecessor left off. She acknowledges the strides made under Mr. Chibebe, highlighting his work on labor migration laws as part of the broader social justice agenda.
With a mission to extend social justice to the borders of the East African Community (EAC), Ms Caroline is actively working on a common market protocol draft to facilitate the free movement of laborers across the region.
“One of the efforts that I have taken with just a month in the office is to propose and expedite the common market protocol draft that demands free movement of laborers across the region,” says Ms. Mugalla.
According to Ms. Mugalla the East African region is facing similar challenges in the journey of promoting the social justice agenda. However, she remains optimistic, citing ongoing dialogues to address pressing concerns.
In a very positive tone, Ms. Mugalla indicates that, “if anything, I would like to thank our governments for embracing social dialogue as a means of change, and as the ILO we will continue calling on tripartite partners to embrace social dialogue to not only promote inclusive economic growth but also harmonize the solutions aimed at addressing the pressing challenges in the region.”
Praising Tanzania’s commitment to conventions on occupational health, safety, and gender, Ms. Caroline underscores ongoing efforts to empower women and youth, the largest segments of the country’s population.
“One thing I like about Tanzania is that it is very keen on the ratifications of some of the tabled conventions on different aspects – be it occupational health and safety or gender. It will not rush on anything for the sake of it, and when it does, it directly complies,” says the new Director.
Asked about the place of trade unions and employer organizations in the ongoing efforts, Ms. Mugalla indicates that “trade unions and employer’s bodies in the region have remained active and have always been ready for meaningful dialogue, and, therefore, it’s the duty of government to listen to the voices of workers and employers through the existing structures.”
She also considers apprenticeship programs as potential avenues to integrate informal workers into the formal employment market. “If I can recall, the ILO highlighted much on apprenticeships programs a couple of years ago as a lifeline strategy towards integrating a batch of informal workers into the formal employment market.
It can be a stepping stone of opening up a new window of such a program in the country,” says Ms. Mugalla. Highlighting her leadership approach, Ms Mugalla attributes her success to unwavering commitment, resilience against external distractions, continuous learning, and transforming challenges into opportunities for improvement.
“It’s my wish to always give my hundred and twenty percent to my work and never look back,” she hinted. As the first female leader of the sub-regional trade organization EATUC, she has shattered barriers for women, drawing from a rich background and a history of activism instilled by her father.
Ms. Caroline’s journey from being a biochemist to a leading figure in labour relations and policy advocacy, in the continent, stands out, and points to her commitment to social justice, an attribute she says is deeply rooted in her family’s.
“I come from a background rich in social justice, to be honest. I am a tenth born, out of 11 sibling-family, and the only one who chose standing up for workers’ rights over the profession of my dream. I have grown up in the corridor of the staged movements for workers and participated in the multiple labour days’ activities,” noted Mugalla.
Her father was an inspirational figure for the great work he did in fighting for the rights of workers in Kenya where he served as the Secretary General of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (Kenya), COTU (K).
ILO is a tripartite agency that comprises Governments, trade unions and employers working for the best interests of their parties in all labour related matt