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Palestine: Development cooperation programme builds capacity among female teachers and union members

published 29 September 2021 updated 29 September 2021

Capacity building for young female teachers and increased female representation in union leadership are at the heart of training organised by the General Union of Palestinian Teachers (GUPT).

The training programme, set up by a consortium comprising Education International, the National Education Union (NEU) of the United Kingdom, and the Union of Education Norway (UEN), came in response to the unique challenges experienced by women during the pandemic.

GUPT reported that female educators found themselves having to balance educating and providing feedback to students remotely, filling in reports, and taking care of their families. This led to burnout and hindered progress towards achieving gender equality.

This creative project on e-learning and gender equality will “contribute to enhance the skills of young female teachers to become active members” and “support women to overcome obstacles preventing them from accessing leadership positions”.

Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, leaders of the NEU/UK

In response, the GUPT resumed its capacity-building programmes, funded by the consortium partners. The aim is to build the capacities of young female teachers around e-learning and increase the number of women in key union leadership and decision-making positions at local and national level.

Female teachers from all of Education International affiliates in Palestine – GUPT, the General Union of Workers in Kindergarten and Private Schools, and the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees - are enjoying the benefits of the training.

Improving access to leadership roles

At the launch of the programme on 25 September, GUPT General Secretary Saed Erziqat thanked Education International, NEU, and UEN for supporting the development programme.

In his message, Education International’s General Secretary, David Edwards, congratulated GUPT for taking the lead in supporting young female teachers and enhancing gender equality during and beyond the pandemic. This creative project on e-learning and gender equality will “contribute to enhance the skills of young female teachers to become active members” and “support women to overcome obstacles preventing them from accessing leadership positions”, he said.

The Chairperson of the GUPT Women’s Committee, Iman Al-Shayeb, highlighted the importance of enhancing the role of this Committee to ensure increased numbers of women in union leadership and decision-making roles and positions at local and national levels.

Indeed, in April 2021, GUPT amended its by-laws and introduced a gender quota to increase women’s leadership at all levels of GUPT’s structures.

Strategic plan promoting gender equality

This move is part of the GUPT’s strategic plan and in the framework of the consortium’s capacity building programme. Among the plan’s objectives are the following:

  • Develop female teachers’ skills around e-learning. The training content will be taught electronically through platforms used by the Education Ministry.
  • Develop learning online materials during the programme. Peer learning and mentoring is encouraged amongst participants.
  • Take action to increase gender equality within GUPT and develop a gender-responsive education system.
  • Improve understanding of and take action to address barriers to women’s participation in union leadership and decision-making at local and national levels.
  • Lobby the government to include gender equality in educators’ initial and continuous training with special focus on recognising and addressing gender stereotypes in textbooks.

“Despite all the challenges related to the lack of infrastructure, access to digitalised curricula, the lack of teachers’ involvement by public authorities in developing online content, and the lack of professional development, the union has taken the lead.”

David Edwards, Education International's General Secretary

Pioneering role in the Arab region

Congratulating GUPT for taking the lead in supporting young female teachers and enhancing gender equality during and beyond the pandemic, Education International’s General Secretary David Edwards also commended GUPT for facilitating quality distance teaching and learning.

At the occasion of the launch of the consortium’s capacity building programme, he also stressed in his message the pioneering role the union is playing in the Arab region.

“Despite all the challenges related to the lack of infrastructure, access to digitalised curricula, the lack of teachers’ involvement by public authorities in developing online content, and the lack of professional development, the union has taken the lead,” Edwards said. “Quality learning depends on well-supported qualified teachers. The union’s work in those areas has again showed the relevance of our work as unions and teaching profession.”

In their joint message, NEU Joint General Secretaries Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney acknowledged that this creative project on e-learning and gender equality will “contribute to enhance the skills of young female teachers to become active members” and “support women to overcome obstacles preventing them from accessing leadership positions”, they said.

GUPT a strategic social partner during pandemic

In addition to responding to the needs of female teachers, GUPT also reacted swiftly to the COVID-19 crisis through an effective national response.

Thanks to the Education International’s COVID-19 Response Fund, the union established its own training department and also trained union members on an online educational programme. This helped the union to position itself as a strategic social partner, as the Education Ministry officially adopted the GUPT e-learning model.