Education International
Education International

Education unions add voice to campaign to end violence against women

published 12 December 2012 updated 14 December 2012

EI, its affiliates and international organisations participated in the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign, from 25 November–10 December. They called for an end to gender-based violence and appealed to governments to prevent and protect women and girls from violence.

At the global level, on 28 November, United Nations (UN) Member States approved the first-ever draft resolution aimed at ending the harmful practice of female genital mutilation, which will be reviewed by the UN General Assembly in December 2012. The resolution calls on the UN Assembly to designate 6 February as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

The move was hailed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a major step forward in protecting millions of women and girls. “I look forward to the Assembly’s adoption of this resolution, which would mark a major step forward in protecting women and girls and ending impunity for this practice,” he said.

European action

In Europe, ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) expressed their support for the European Parliament’s Declaration calling on the EU to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on violence against women on 20 December.

Johanna Nelles, Director of the Violence against Women and Domestic Violence Unit at the Council of Europe, outlined five reasons why the EU should ratify the Convention:

  • The EU should use the existing framework of measures to combat violence against women; the Council of Europe Convention is a comprehensive instrument comprising good standards.
  • The political support for such ratification already exists, it needs to convert into action. The written declaration gives visibility to this political support.
  • The EU has a legal base to ratify the Convention, as it has already ratified 11 Council of Europe instruments, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • The EP has been flagging violence against women as an area needing policy framework; recent EP resolutions have called for measures that are included in the Convention.
  • Finally, the EU, by ratifying the Convention, would send a strong political message to step up efforts to end violence against women, and would cement its leading role in this area.

EI affiliates in the United Kingdom (NASWUT, NUT and UCU) and other organisations joined the 9th London Reclaim the Night march to end male violence against women.  The march was organised on 24 November to mark the UN Day to End Violence Against Women.

“Imagine the future — imagine a city that, in its everyday comings and goings, celebrates women rather than exploits them, where the streets are not only secure but sweet, places of safety and public pleasure, where both women and men, the genders and the generations experience respect.  That’s the future we want. That’s why it’s worth joining Reclaim the Night,” said one of the organisers. At least one in four women experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and, every year, around 400,000 women are sexually assaulted and 80,000 women raped in the UK (British Crime Survey 2010/11).

Meeting in Africa

In Africa, within the framework of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, the Fédération Nationale des Enseignants du Congo(FENECO-UNTC), one of EI’s affiliates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), organised a meeting for women teachers and social educators on 8 December in Kinshasa.

The 85 participants debated the fact that an unequal balance of power in the workplace and precarious work conditions for many DRC women increase the risk of them becoming victims of sexual harassment or rape. This further leads to a higher risk of contracting HIV.

Participants highlighted that trade unions, as well as women trade unionists in particular, have a crucial role to play on the issue of violence against girls in schools and on the journey between home and school. This can be achieved through the exchange of good practices, and the search for solutions and strategies to counter violence against women and aiming at building and consolidating peace.

“To facilitate girls and everyone’s access to education, FENECO-UNTC has always advocated for cost-free education and against the commodification of education,” said FENECO-UNTC General Secretary Augustin Tumba Nzuji.

He added the 2011 EI Report on the Status of Women in Unions, Education and Society shows that, despite gender equality being written into law in almost all countries, laws are often unfortunately not implemented nor adequately implemented.

This report notes that the majority of trade union members in most regions are women, yet women are under-represented in trade union management bodies. The higher the decision-making body, the lower the rate of women’s representation.

Mr Tumba Nzuji underlined the fact that 45 per cent of his trade union’s Executive Board members are women. He also told participants that the next FENECO-UNTC national seminar, to be held from 27-29 December 2012, will be a great opportunity to deepen the “integration of gender issues” in the trade union’s decision-making bodies.

EI: Education a safe place for girls

EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen pointed out that EI encourages all initiatives and actions fighting violence and discrimination against girls and women. “EI strongly rejects the situations of discrimination and violence experienced by girls and women worldwide,” he said.

“We believe that the field of education should be considered a safe place for female students and teachers, who should be assured access to and continuation in schools and all the guarantees of a public and high-quality education for all individuals.”

He noted that the progress made in schooling girls and boys is slow, as shown in the 2012 UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR), which highlights that 54 per cent of the 61 million children still out of school are girls, and one in four women cannot read or write.

Van Leeuwen also reiterated his conviction that only by incorporating gender policies that are transversal to all fields and levels of education will real change be achieved in terms of eradicating all types of discrimination, making progress in wiping out gender-based violence and achieving more equitable quotas for girls and boys, as well as for education workers.

Global Unions at the UN CSW 2013

The elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls will be included as priority themes in the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) working agenda in March 2013. EI and Global Unions are joining forces for advocacy and a joint statement, “Trade Unions Say: NO COMPROMISE on WOMEN’S RIGHTS ZERO TOLERANCE for VIOLENCE against Women and Girls”, has been submitted to the United Nations. EI member organisations are invited to participate and follow up the EI delegation at the CSW57 and add your voice at the UN CSW through the joint trade union blog in 2013: http://unioncsw.world-psi.org/