Education International
Education International

EI seminar values diversity

published 14 November 2008 updated 14 November 2008

The first-ever EI Pan-European Equality Seminar with a focus on LGBT rights had fruitful exchange, discussion and deliberations.

The seminar on "Education unions: Building respect for diversity," was held in Bratislava, Slovakia (November 3-5). It addressed the challenges facing education unions tackling non-discrimination issues, and enabling education union representatives to address controversial issues such as LGBT rights. The event was opened by EI Deputy General Secretary Jan Eastman and Alexander Kurtansky, vice-president of EI affiliate OZPŠaV, the Trade Union of Workers in Education and Science.

“In Serbia, we do not have these questions in our national document, laws, etc. It becomes hard to get a job if you have come out,” said one delegate. In other countries, hidden negativity among teachers emerged as a problem.

Participants shared personal stories and problems, but also dilemmas and successes. Working together in small groups was highly valued with the awareness of different approaches. At the plenary sessions, the more than 30 participants raised concrete suggestions, but also addressed gaps in the work to challenge gender stereotypes which lead to homophobia. In brief, recommendations will improve EI’s Pan-European Equality work and increase the visibility of this issue.

The participants, who came from 15 countries, were a diverse group, with equal representation of women and men, different age groups, sexual orientation, etc. Among them were union leaders, officers and LGBT unionists with a varied range of experience from beginners to experts with almost 30 years of experience. Together they managed to interact in English, French and Russian.

The Pan-European Regional Committee endorsed the following recommendations:

  1. Continue its support to member organizations in their efforts to make the teaching profession and teaching and learning environments free of discrimination , including sexism and homophobia;
  2. Continue its support of the Pan European Equality Committee in its efforts to enhance the values of diversity and non-discrimination in education, unions and society; in particular stressing the role of teacher unions in finding solutions to problems that affect LGBT teachers and students;
  3. Encourage member organizations to become aware of the European Union and national governments non discrimination legislation and policy in the education sector and society as a whole;
  4. Call on member organizations to intensify efforts to fully implement the Porto Alegre Declaration (2004), the recommendation of the 1st EI-PSI Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered Forum and its follow-up activities including ‘Workers Out!’ meetings.