The wave of revelations of sexual harassment and abuse of women from all walks of life marks a tipping point in tackling gender-based violence, and that effort begins in classrooms around the world.
This year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is receiving the attention and prominence it finally deserves. Due to a global focus on sexual harassment and abuse of women in both the public and private spheres, as exemplified by the #metoo social media campaign, this moment has created the possibility for all societies to make a great leap forward in the struggle to meaningfully address gender-based violence, harassment and abuse.
However, gender-based violence is too often experienced at an early age in and around educational settings. It is spread through entrenched gender norms and stereotypes and is enforced by unequal power dynamics.
“There is a growing realisation that actual violence, or even the threat of violence, within education is a very important challenge to overcome,” said Haldis Holst, Deputy General Secretary of Education International (EI). “November 25th is a key moment every year when we can once again re-affirm our commitment to making our schools, colleges, universities and entire societies free of gender-based violence.”
Time for labour to lead the way
Amongst the tide of recent abuse revelations, she says that this is also a critical moment for the labour movement to lead by its actions and example.
“It’s very important that trade unions show that we have the policies, tools and resources to take action and to support the disproportionate numbers of women who are victims of violence, abuse and harassment, and who are now finding the courage to speak up about their experiences,” continued Holst. “No matter where it takes place, gender-based violence has an extremely negative impact on victims’ lives both inside and outside of work. As workers’ representatives, trade unions must be crystal clear that there will be zero tolerance of any kind of violence within or in relation to the workplace.”
In 2016, EI marked November 25 by calling on governments to support a binding ILO Standard – a Convention with a related Recommendation - on Violence and Harassment against Women and Men in the World of Work. Unfortunately, that objective has not yet been achieved, and education unions must continue their lobbying efforts.
Goal 4 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG4) lays out a courageous and expansive agenda: inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all. SDG4 also calls for the provision of ‘ safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.’
Education International calls on of its member organisations and their members to lobby Parliament and National Assembly representatives to secure government support for an ILO Convention plus Recommendation with a focus on gender-based violence in the workplace.