International Women’s Day 2021
“Achieving equality for women and girls is not only a matter of fairness and fundamental human rights; progress in so many other areas depend on it”, UN Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The International Women’s Day (IWD) dates about 110 years back. It grew out of a trade union movement into an annual event recognised by the United Nations. The event began in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City to demand shorter working hours, better wages, and the right to vote. It was the Socialist Party of America that declared the first National Women's Day a year later.
In 1975, the United Nations officially recognised the International Women’s Day which is celebrated every year on 8 March, and in 1996, began to adopt an annual theme for every year. The first theme was: “Celebrating the past, planning for the Future”.
The IWD is a day dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements in the social, economic, cultural, and political spheres throughout history and across the globe. It is for women from different backgrounds and across fields, an opportunity to come together to fight for gender equality and women’s rights. The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is: “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”
Indeed, COVID-19 has posed many challenges to almost all countries on the social, cultural, economic aspects. Gender equality gains in the world and particularly in Africa have been eroded by the impact of the pandemic. Household tensions have increased due to economic hardships resulting from the collapse of businesses, and violence against women and girls has skyrocketed. The education sector was seriously hit with long periods of school closures, causing job losses for many female teachers and education support personnel with precarious employment contracts, and leading many children, especially girls, into child labor (including worse forms of child labor such as prostitution or sexual exploitation), as well as child marriage, etc.
The Worldwide celebration of the IWD included a wide range of activities, spanning from special events like gatherings, public conferences, exhibitions, festivals held by women’s groups, communities, corporations, and government institutions. As for the women in the education unions in Africa, they had the opportunity to learn from leadership experiences of influential female figures of Education International Worldwide and the Women’s Network of the Africa Region, and to reflect on ways to continue educating, sensitizing, and advocating to increase women’s leadership in the Region and to share reflections on how to challenge the status quo.
While we acknowledge female leaders in the Education Unions who have been standing for us, female educators, there is the need for the EI women’s networks to be at the forefront of the battle by challenging gender stereotypes, patriarchal attitudes, and harmful practices, to ensure that we are in the process leading to transformation of mindset regarding gender equality and women’s rights.
With this in mind, the Director of EI Africa Region, Dr. Dennis Sinyolo reiterated EI’s commitment to promote gender equality in the region and globally. EI and member organisations in Africa will continue to collaborate, network, share experiences, empower, and support women, organise, and mobilise union members to champion gender equality. “We will push for gender equality, equity and inclusion in our education systems and our unions; for this, we should make use of the international treaties, frameworks and tools, national policies and legislation that can help in the fight for gender equality. We need to adapt, appropriate and promote EI’s Gender Equality Action Plan and continue to advocate for the ratification and full implementation of ILO Convention 190”.