Representatives from the gender, equity and equality units of EI member unions across Latin America were invited by the regional office to participate in a virtual meeting last Wednesday to reflect on the situation of women in general, and women educators in particular, in the time of COVID-19.
The participants underscored the acute inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and which are further compounded by gender inequality.
They also agreed that women have been overloaded with work in the current crisis. In addition to remote teaching work, which involves a greater number of working hours, the responsibilities of household work, childcare and caring for older people have been added on top. At times, they must also provide for the family in situations of unemployment, or informal employment.
The participants highlighted how the lockdown measures implemented by most countries have also led to a spike in reports of gender-based violence and increased rates of femicide. Women are being made to stay at home to avoid exposure to the novel coronavirus, which means that they are forced to live with their abusers.
Digital Divide and Guiding Principles
Other challenges identified included limited access to technological resources for distance learning, which is common in many Latin American countries in which students and teachers lack the necessary equipment and access to the Internet. The digital divide is compounded by the generational gap, with older teachers having considerable difficulty mastering the conditions and environments of virtual classrooms without adequate training.
Trade unions have developed different strategies to facilitate teachers' access to technological resources, training and psychological care, among other services. And they are making a considerable effort to reach the most disadvantaged sectors of society in the midst of the crisis. Sonia Alesso of CTERA in Argentina, a member of the Education International Executive Board, used her intervention to outline EI's response to the pandemic and its impact on the education sector. The guiding principles developed by EI regarding the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.