N’Djamena, Chad

We sit in a dusty backyard, under a tree, and participate in a study circle for women working in the informal economy. They are street vendors, who also manufacture their goods.

“We meet twice a week”, says the facilitator Pazimi Haoua Idris, and tells how important the meetings have become for the participants. After having worked through the trade union training manual, the participants focus on different related themes, such as the widespread alcohol practice.

Several women sew while the discussions sway through the influence of alcohol and how alcohol affects family and the danger of getting infected with HIV/Aids.
Young children climb around and gets a hug when whining. The study circle leader, Pazimi Haoua Idris, explains through cartoon images, as the women can not read and write in the official language.

The collaboration behind the study circle we visit in Central Africa is an example of the changes taking place in the global development cooperation.
The political landscape behind is increasingly characterized by the South to South cooperation, as the trade union confederation CUT Brasil this spring joined the donor network behind the Pan-African Trade Union Education Program

According to the education secretary of the organization, José Celestino Lourenco, it was an important step to become a full member of the program and to contribute financially.
”For many years, we received support ourselves”, he says. “It’s time for us to give back.”

Before the decision of support was taken, CUT Brasil made evaluations of both the program’s cost-effectiveness as well as the educational method as such.
“We were impressed by the cost effeciency as well as the format. We believe in the idea of using the workplace for training”, José Celestino Lourenco continues.

Development cooperation has an increasing role to play in and between the southern countries, where trade, foreign direct investment and growth have increased. The lack of respect for commitments and human rights in the new South-South cooperation is one of the challenges that United Nations Development Programme, UNDP UNDP The United Nations Development Programme is the UN’s global development network. It helps the countries to find solutions to development challenges and to achieve human development and the MDGs. , highlighted in its Human Development Report last year. For instance, often the expansion of China in parts of Africa has been at the risk of exploitation, rather than a mutual partnership.

“For us it’s important to transfer technology in order for the Africans to build their own capacity and community”, says José Celestino Lourenco.

The Pan-African Trade Union Education Program (PANAF) is a trade union education program run buy the two Swedish trade union confederations LO and TCO together with CUT Brasil and FGTB Belgium as well as ITUC Africa and OATUU (Organization of African Trade Union Unity). The purpose is to introduce the study circle method – which is a member driven and effective method where trade union members are given the tools to educate themselves.

To promote unity in the national trade union movements, fight Hiv/Aids, prevent conflicts and promote gender equality are also central goals of the program. The program has been running for 25 years and is currently active in 16 countries on the African continent. In 2013, a total of 76 012 participants received basic trade union education through 6 255 study circles and a cost of 11 USD per participant. At least 30 percent of all participants in the program are women.

Author: Kristina Henschen, Director, LO-TCO Secretariat of International Trade Union Development Cooperation