'There can be a better world' was the rallying cry of almost 400 participants from 87 countries who participated in EI's first World Women's Conference, On the Move for Equality, in Bangkok, 20-23 January.
The teacher and education workers' representatives from EI-affiliated member organisations were joined by partners from UN agencies, Global Unions and the NGO community.
EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, welcomed participants by stating that: "EI has advocated for the rights of girls and women to be recognised and implemented in education, unions and society since it was founded in 1993."
EI Deputy General Secretary, Jan Eastman, noted that in many EI regions, notably Africa, the majority of education union members are women, reflecting the teaching profession workforce more widely. However, the leadership in many unions remain dominated by men. Ms. Eastman's observation that progress is visible, but slow and uneven, prompted debate among participants on ways forward, through analysis and shared experience, to pursue individual and union efforts to make real and lasting change.
Participants stressed the role and responsibility of teacher unions in the creation of a world rooted in gender equality. They also agreed that EI's Women's Networks are a key tool to achieving results; generating more women leaders, and a better education of both men and women leaders.
Participants found commonality in issues across the globe so sought common and coordinated responses.
Access to and participation in quality public education for girls and illiterate women leading to full employment and decent work for women, with equal pay and opportunities for progression, was a critical goal.
Other themes debated at the event included how stereotypes in education pose a barrier to girls; the political empowerment of women; violence against girls and women; strengthening public services, and access to health.
While many countries have, or are moving to, clear legal mandates to ensure gender equality, all too often the daily lives of women fail to reflect this.
The women in Bangkok spoke on behalf of many more at home who want to see policy implemented at all levels, concrete improvements for girls and women, especially vulnerable or marginalised groups including migrant, indigenous, rural, poor and illiterate girls and women.
In closing the conference, EI President, Susan Hopgood, looked at the action plans that were developed to move towards action, and stated: “We succeeded, even exceeded expectations. We must take these outcomes to July's EI Congress in South Africa to elaborate an action-based strategy at international, local and union level.” She called on participants to take the following message back to sisters and brothers around the world that: “We are on the move for equality! Let’s make it a reality!”
All photos of the event are available on our Flickr site.
For further information, please visit: www.ei-ie.org/women2011.
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