Union women's summer school instils sense of purpose and empowerment

Kay Atwal (right) with Ikbal Ben Moussa from UGTT (International) Tunisia at House of Commons event ©Private
Kay Atwal (right) with Ikbal Ben Moussa from UGTT (International) Tunisia at House of Commons event ©Private

The TUC, in conjunction with unionlearn, runs a Summer School for Union Women Professionals every year. I was fortunate enough to attend in this, its 11th year, when it focussed on trade unions and women, women in the workplace and equality issues.

Although unsure of exactly what to expect, I knew I needed to beef up my knowledge of the trade union movement, bring it up to date to the 21st century if you will, so I was looking forward to a bit of good old fashioned cramming and learning.

What I hadn't banked on were the practical, hands-on, role playing activities with my fellow attendees that made it even more enjoyable. These activities also helped the lessons to stick.

They also helped add value to the presentations from policy experts, and inspirational speakers such as Mary Bousted and Wanda Wyporska from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Mary, General Secretary of the ATL, took us on a journey through her career, delivered in a punchy, no-holds barred style that felt more like a one-to-one conversation. It captivated and galvanized us in equal measure. No wonder that we ended the day feeling that we had a voice, as individuals and as a collective

Wanda taught us a valuable lesson on presentations with a list of tips that helped settle more than a few nerves about our upcoming task. The result was a variety of interesting presentations on a series of different subjects.

Several of the TUC's policy experts gave presentations throughout the week on subjects ranging from the economy, to employment and equality as well as campaigning and women in the labour force, providing facts that served as a foundation for our discussions.

The course, attended by women from different unions, from across the UK, gave me an insight into the way they work within their unions, their roles and their relationship with the TUC. For me, it was a valuable opportunity to network and bond with women with similar and, more importantly, differing experiences of life and the trade union movement.

The dinner, at a restaurant that overlooked Tower Bridge, was the icing on the cake – giving us the chance to discuss our course experiences and of course, take photos for posting on social media.

So, what did I get from the course? I left feeling more informed, with a definite sense of purpose and empowerment. Although I'm not ready to speak in front of tens of thousands of people, I am definitely more confident about the prospect of public speaking.

Making a new set of friends was a huge bonus as we all swapped contact details and promised to stay in touch. I also feel much more a part of the trade union movement – not a bad result from a week-long course.

If you get the chance to go on a future course, I would strongly urge you to go – it is well worth it.

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Kay Atwal

Kay Atwal is a media officer with the TUC Campaigns and Communications Department.

Kay is also a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).