Teachers raise their voice for gender-responsive and empowering public education at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

published 7 March 2023 updated 5 April 2023

The sixty-seventh Session of the Commission on the Status of Women takes place at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York, from 6 to 17 March 2023. The Education International delegation is there to call on all governments to Go Public and Fund Education, so that all women and girls have meaningful access to technology.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will consider the priority theme of Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

In her statement marking International Women’s Day, Education International President Susan Hopgood warned that “as much as technology is changing the world, millions of women and girls are being left behind”. Welcoming the 67th Session’s focus on education, Hopgood called on governments to “fully fund quality public education that gives all women and girls the skills and confidence they need to navigate an increasingly digital world”.

From teachers everywhere to the United Nations

The Education International delegation brings the voice of teachers and education support personnel, professions dominated by women, to the United Nations.

Speaking from New York, Haldis Holst, Education International Deputy General Secretary, stated: “The UN Commission on the Status of Women is a unique opportunity to influence global policy making on gender equality. As women educators and unionists, it is our mission to push forward the agenda on gender equality and to speak up for gender-transformative quality public education. We are here for our colleagues and our students everywhere.”

The delegation is calling on all governments to uphold labour rights as the world of work enters the digital age, with a particular focus on women and marginalised populations with disproportionately low access to technology.

Quality public education is key to achieving gender equality online and offline. Women education unionists are highlighting four main areas of action:

1. Increase women and girls’ meaningful access to technology and digital tools

69% of men are using the internet, compared to only 63% of women. This means that 259 million more men than women are online. Quality public education is imperative to ending the gender digital divide.

Governments must:

  • Fully fund quality public education systems that reinforce digital and media literacy and social-emotional skills in the curricula and pedagogy.
  • Ensure sufficient public investments in technology infrastructure and equipment in schools.
  • Promote women’s participation in the design, application, monitoring, and evaluation of technologies.

2. Promote teachers´ participation in the design and implementation of technology in education

As highlighted in the outcomes of the Transforming Education Summit, many teachers lack the infrastructure, equipment, and professional development opportunities to deliver quality education in the digital age.

Teachers and their trade unions are often not consulted in the implementation or assessment of digital technologies in schools. Without the involvement of the teaching profession, the technology introduced in classrooms risks not meeting the real needs of teachers and students.

Furthermore, the exponential growth of for-profit online teaching and learning platforms and the involvement of corporate actors in curriculum development limit teachers’ professional autonomy and undermine equity and quality.

Governments must:

  • Support teachers to equally participate in and facilitate digital innovation in their education institutions.
  • Increase public investment in school ICT infrastructure and ensure that teachers have access to the required tools and internet.
  • Ensure open-source, safe, accessible, and quality public digital learning tools in schools.
  • Ensure that both initial training and continuous professional development support teachers in using technology in the classroom, developing digital and media literacy, and using gender-responsive pedagogy.
  • Engage in social dialogue with education unions around technology and digital innovation in terms of policy making and implementation at national, regional, and school level.

3. Address online and offline school-related gender-based violence

Technology-facilitated gender-based violence has a severe impact on achieving universal and gender-responsive quality education for all. It affects the physical and psychological well-being of women and girls, and prevents students from enjoying their fundamental right to education.

Governments must:

  • Create and enforce a well-defined legal and policy framework and include teachers, education support personnel, and their trade unions in the planning and implementation of programmes and measures to eliminate school-related gender-based violence.
  • Act to enable a violence-free digital environment and world of work for all women. Ratify and fully implement the International Labour Organization Convention 190, which establishes the right to a world of work free from violence and harassment.

4. Close the gender divide in STEM fields

Women are underrepresented in various positions in the innovation, communications, and technology labour market. Oftentimes this gender divide is perpetuated in education systems: in secondary school, girls already display lower levels of participation in advanced STEM courses. Female teachers are also underrepresented in teaching STEM courses.

Governments must:

  • Ensure quality education at all levels, with a broad-based curriculum where students in all their diversity are encouraged and supported to learn and develop their competences across subjects and domains.
  • Increase the number of female teachers teaching STEM subjects and invest in their initial and continuous professional development and training.
  • Promote mentoring programs and exchange of best practices where female STEM teachers can guide and support female students in STEM.

Women power education. Women power unions.

Education International together with other Global Unions have jointly prepared and submitted a Statement to the UN CSW67. Global Unions call on governments to engage in social dialogue for the adoption and implementation of gender-transformative plans to ensure equitable access to technology for all; equitable access to quality public education, training and lifelong learning; jobs, wages, rights and protection in the world of work.

Click here to read the full statement from the Global Unions to the CSW67.