Asian women union leaders join forces to combat bullying and sexual harassment in schools

Top women education unionists from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have taken stock of their 2018 activities focusing on anti-bullying and research on sexual harassment, and adopted a 2019 action plan to push forward action.

Thirteen women union leaders from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines came together in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 13-14 December, for the Education International (EI)/Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF)/Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Women’s Network (AWN) workshop, to reviewing their activities in 2018 and planning the upcoming year.

Two women unionists from Cambodia - Cambodia Independent Teachers' Association (CITA) and National Educators' Association for Development (NEAD) - who attended a project meeting for the first time shared their difficulties to organise in their country. They welcomed EI support and expressed their gratitude for meeting with other ASEAN sisters to stop bullying and sexual harassment.

After the performance audit of the activities on anti-bullying and sexual harassment, the union leaders debated and came up with doable objectives and plans for 2019. They proposed the following actions for EI/CTF financial support for 2019:

·         Maintaining the AWN website and publishing newsletters.

·         Spreading the anti-bullying campaign to other schools and remote areas, taking the opportunity of international days, such as Anti-Bullying day in March, Labour Day in May, Mother’s Day in May, Global Day of Parents in June, as well as World Teachers’ day on 5 October and other internal dates of interest.

·         Setting up a Young Teachers’ Camp in the Philippines and Indonesia as a pilot programme, in liaison with existing gender and union programmes.

·         Continuing anti-sexual harassment and discrimination activities/research at workplace.

Participants aimed to re-visit and analyse the 2018 actions to build the 2019 activities, strengthen skills in campaigning and advocacy, highlighting best practices and sharing information on anti-bullying and sexual harassment work, and develop strategies empowering victims via confidential reporting mechanisms.

“I could sense a great comradeship during face-to-face meetings with these women leaders from the ASEAN sub-region,” enthusiastically noted Pathma Krishnan from EI Asia-Pacific office, adding that “I could see collective responsibilities and teamwork enhanced”.

She also insisted that participants were shocked that cases of bullying are very high in schools and workplaces, and they agreed that schools needs counsellors and trained teachers to recognise bullying and mitigate its effects, as there is a suicidal increasing in alarming rates due to bullying.

She concluded by welcoming the fact that boys and male colleagues are collaborating and getting involved in the fight against bullying and sexual harassment.

Participants will prepare a special edition of their publication for distribution at the EI Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, in July 2019, and plan to meet again in November 2019.

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