A South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) women’s network planning meeting was organised recently by the EI Asia-Pacific regional office, together with two affiliates, the All India Federation of Teachers’ Organisation (AIFTO) and Lärarförbundet from Sweden.
From 5-7 May, 19 participants gathered in Trivandrum, Kerala, for this event: two leaders from AIFTO National Office; six leaders and participants from the AIFTO affiliate in the Andhra Pradesh State; five leaders and participants from the AIFTO affiliate in the Kerala State; and six leaders and participants from the AIFTO affiliate in the Maharashtra State.
This meeting followed up on the planning meeting held in 2012. It aimed to assess programmes that were implemented in 2013 and to explore the possibility of continuing activities in 2014 and onwards.
It focused on:
· Increasing female membership
· Raising women’s awareness on union activities
· Women’s participation in union activities
· Increasing the percentage of women being trained as leaders and taking up leadership positions
· Communication structures developed to inform unions
Promoting women’s participation in leadership in education
Presentations were made by EI, Lärarförbundet, AIFTO and its three state affiliates on the current situation of education, trade union rights and gender equality in education, union and society in particular.
AIFTO and its affiliates reported on activities’ outputs and progress made by their unions in their respective areas. They also discussed how activities helped in achieving targets set during the 2012 planning meeting including recommendations for future targets.
AIFTO also outlined the constitutional changes made to promote women’s participation in the federation’s decision-making structures, which is a very positive indicator. Some of the women participants acknowledged the SAARC gender equality network in empowering them.
Mainstreaming gender equality issues
“The discussion was on how to mainstream gender equality issues in the union and education,” said EI Asia-Pacific Regional Coordinator Pathma Krishnan. “Although more than 50 per cent of union members are women, women are under-represented at decision-making level and active participation of women in the union is needed.”
There is also a big gap between younger women joining the union and participating actively, she went on to explain.
“There is need to constantly organise women in the union and help them to participate at decision-making level,” she stressed. “A shared consensus from the affiliates was to sensitise male members on gender issues, especially women’s issues. Sometimes this is difficult since India is a male dominated society.”
AIFTO and its three affiliates also discussed how to review, implement, and lobby the Government on matters of great concerns, such as para- and contract teachers’ issues in India.
Participants were enthusiastic, encouraged, and had an interesting and valuable planning meeting, Krishnan said, adding that they will be able to apply the knowledge acquired when preparing plans and programmes to be implemented by the organisations in their respective target areas.