EI’s Second World Women’s Conference took place in Dublin, Ireland from April 7-9, 2014. The conference built on the success and learning from the first On the Move for Equality Conference. The conference theme was ‘Women in Trade Unions and in Education: from Words to Action’.
Education has the power to transform people’s lives. Promoting equality and encouraging diversity is core business for education, through questioning gender stereotypes, providing windows of opportunity, opening doors of access, and building positive, inclusive learning environments.
Teachers are at the heart of education. Quality education needs qualified and motivated teachers with fair working conditions, including equal pay for women and men. Teachers must be trained to deal with the dynamics of sexism, racism, and homophobia in the classroom.
Education unions play a key role in shaping education systems and developing societies. As such, unions need to be a role model in living the values of equality, diversity, and empowerment in all aspects of union work. Working to achieve gender equality in unions, education, and society has been a principal aim and a major work priority for EI since its Founding Congress in 1995, and this is reflected in the work of all five of EI’s regions. Many education unions and their women’s networks are bringing changes to unions and society and also transformative solutions to the same old problems.
In January 2011, EI convened the ‘On the Move for Equality’ Conference, the first EI World Women’s Conference. A key outcome of the Conference was the adoption of Resolutions on Gender Equality and on Education and the Elimination of Violence Against Women by the EI 6th World Congress in July 2011. The EI Gender Equality Resolution provided the mandate of the development of the EI Global Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP).
EI is concerned about gender equality issues in education employment, how it is treated in education, and in larger society. Issues in society cannot be separated from the schools where those problems and conflicts are often visible and expressed.
Concerning teachers and other education workers, EI calls for an end to discrimination against women and for pay equity and for the elimination of barriers against professional development and promotion of women.
Although progress has been made, there are still differences in compensation and treatment of women and men in education. For example, in many countries, women are a distinct minority in higher education, particularly in high and well-compensated positions. In Early Childhood Education, by contrast, women are over-represented in jobs that are often poorly paid and precarious and treated as if they were baby-sitters rather than educators. Throughout the system, again in many if not all countries, women tend to be under-represented in school leadership positions.
EI has also been encouraging and working with member organisations to ensure that there is a significant participation of women in leadership positions in education trade unions. In some countries, there are few women education union leaders even when women constitute a majority of members.
EI has called for the full respect for and recognition of the professional roles of teachers. That includes being involved in developing curricula, teaching materials, and teaching methods. As part of that responsibility, they, as well as school authorities, are well-placed to ensure that gender bias and stereotypes are removed from education regardless of cultural or religious traditions. Human rights are universal.
There are still many countries where girls do not share the same educational opportunities as boys. That was a priority in the MDGs and remains of importance in the SDGs. In extreme cases, girls have been physically attacked simply for going to school. The effects of discrimination in access to education is not a temporary problem. It penalises girls and women for their entire lives and perpetuates gender inequality.
EI has expressed deep concern about violence against women. The effects of that violence are seen in schools and it is a brutal symptom of inequality and injustice based on gender. That concern about violence includes gender-based violence in schools. It is part of a larger problem of gender harassment aggravated by modern technology so that attacks on girls and women can rapidly spread through the internet and social networks.
Second EI World Women’s Conference
EI’s Second World Women’s Conference took place in Dublin Ireland from April 7-9, 2014. The theme of the conference was ‘Women in Trade Unions and in Education: from Words to Action’.
The conference provided the space and opportunity for all participants to share,analyse, and provide feedback on good union practices that have concretely improved equality for women and men in unions and in education.
The Conference specifically:
Enabled participants to share the best education union practices for increasing women’s participation at all levels within unions, and for addressing the gender gaps in education.
Reviewed the key goals and indicators of the EI Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP) to assess progress.
Advised union representatives on suitable gender-sensitive language and approach for addressing key issues related to education in international policy arenas, including a new post-2015 United Nations framework and related outcome documents.
EI Women’s Networks
The regional and sub-regional women’s networks have contributed fundamentally to promote women’s empowerment and leadership. Their work is supported through provisions in the EI Program and Budget, through development cooperation projects, and other means available. There are currently 10 sub-regional or regional networks in place: one Pan-African and five sub-regional, three sub-regional in Asia-Pacific, one Caribbean, European (the ETUCE has several linked Women’s and Equality structures), as well as one regional and three sub-regional women’s networks in Latin America.
Gender-based violence in schools
EI is working with UNESCO and UN Women in a campaign against gender-based violence in schools. Students are victims and perpetrators of this violence, but victims also include teachers and other school staff. Gender-based violence may have long-term impact. It may limit victims’ participation in the economy and in society. Schools and all other educational institutions should never be plagued with fear, but should be safe and secure spaces for workers and learners alike: