Women representing Global Union Federations are working together to advance gender equality and the decent work agenda during the current session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
The 52nd session of the UNCSW, which has as its priority theme "Financing for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women," represents one of the strategic opportunities to advance the trade union decent work agenda on the way to the Review Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Doha in late 2008.
Delegates applauded UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon as he launched a UN campaign to end violence against women and girls, targeted for 2015.
At an earlier meeting, EI Deputy General Secretary Jan Eastman welcomed the 35 delegates from Education International, Public Services International and the International Trade Union Confederation, who will be at the UN from 25 February to 7 March. Collectively, they represent more than 168 million workers in 900 national unions.
Eastman noted that this year is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also marks the half-way point to the deadline for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
"Thus, it is high time to practice, not merely preach, gender equality and to end violence against women and girls," Eastman said. "Clearly, the MDGs will not be met unless more attention and resources are devoted to gender equality and empowering women."
"Education is critical to empowering women and girls," she stated. "Access to education enables women and girls to become literate adults, which improves their opportunities in the labour market. Educated women are more likely to educate their children, provide them with better nutrition, access health services, have reduced maternal mortality, and lower incidence of HIV and AIDS."
"Educated women can take their rightful place in the economic, social and political life of their communities and countries, thus enabling rather than impeding development. Adequate funding of quality public education for girls and women is a cornerstone of decent work strategies and policies for women’s empowerment," Eastman said.
But access to free quality public education alone is not sufficient without access to sanitation facilities in the schools, health services, decent jobs, equal pay, land credit, and sustainable environment. These are all factors in empowering women and girls worldwide, Eastman declared.
This is the message that the trade union delegates are taking to governments, regional caucuses and NGOs assembled at the United Nations. EI, PSI and the ITUC have issued a joint statement on " Investing in Decent Work for Women." As well, they are organizing an interactive panel discussion on the theme to be held 29 February as part of the UN parallel event program.
Eastman that the decent work agenda must be at the heart of policies and programmes aimed at financing for development, and in particular those aimed at financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women.
"Full participation of civil society, including trade unions, is crucial to the success of any policy process. Financing decent work through investing in gender equality will provide linkages to education, training and skills, to the social sector and social protection," she said.
The EI delegates come from: NEA, United States; CTF-FCE and FQPPU, Canada; CUT , Caribbean; CNTE, Brazil; FNE, Portugal; SSTA, Scotland; Lärarförbundet, Sweden; and GNAT, Ghana.