In the opening speech to the first EI World Women’s Conference, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, acknowledged that “EI has been on the move for equality since its creation in 1993.”
He said “equity is not just a gender issue. Achieving gender equality is a first step towards full equity with no space left for racism, islamophobia, homophobia, and all these social evils, most of which are rooted in ignorance. Quality public education is our main weapon to defeat it.” The Thai Minister of Education, the Honourable Mr. Chinnaworn Bunyakiat, said that for his government, “the promotion of gender equality was recognised as helping the economic and social status of women.” He said that because of the importance which the Thai Government ascribed to education, 20% of the total public expenditure was spent on it in Thailand.
He added that “by educating young people on gender equality, we widen career options and opportunities to all of them.” He added that Thailand recognised the important role of women, respected all segments of society, and will host this year the high level group meeting that will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Jomtien Declaration on Education for All.
In the name of all Thai EI affiliates, Boopun Sanbho from NTU then warmly welcomed the participants. EI President Susan Hopgood, speaking to the opening session, emphasised that “teacher trade unions believing in social justice and solidarity have a role to play to achieve gender equality”. She said that “engaging boys and men is essential to our progress,” and praised the “effectiveness of women’s networks.” The opening finished with a video message from the Head of UN-Women, Michelle Bachelet, who reminded participants that education was a human right and a tool to achieve equality and peace.” She also said that the forthcoming session of the UN Commission on the status of women would consider, as a priority theme, the access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology.