Education International
Education International

Women’s Day: from words to action

published 5 March 2013 updated 8 March 2013

In 1910, Clara Zetkin, a political leader in Germany, first suggested the idea of an annual Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women. Going from strength to strength, year after year in all corners of the globe, International Women’s Day has become a day of recognition, celebration and mobilisation for women.

EI has a long tradition of commemorating International Women’s Day, with national and regional events and activities led by affiliates.

This year, EI has called on all member organisations to promote gender equality effectively in society, the teaching profession, and in organisations of teachers and education employees.

The 2011 EI Congress Resolution on Gender Equality noted that ‘women outnumber men in union membership in most countries, but progress in women’s participation in union leadership is slow and uneven’.

The Resolution also states that trade unions are responsible for ensuring full representation and the participation of all members at all levels of union business.

Towards this crucial aim, EI recommends the establishment of women’s committees, determining clear priorities and designing action plans to achieve them, in order to address the current needs of women teacher unionists.

Gender disparities in education Gender parity and equality in education constitute “a basic human right, as well as an important means of improving social and economic outcomes”, according to the 2012 Education For All Global Monitoring Report (EFA GMR).

However, the gap is huge. Globally, 61 million children do not attend primary school - over half of them (53 per cent) are girls. About 775 million adults remain illiterate; two-thirds of them women.

“A key reason for fewer girls being in school is that they are less likely to start school in the first place. Once in school, their chances of progressing through the system are similar to those of boys,” highlights the EFA GMR report.

EI has insisted on the importance of early childhood education as a key priority to bring girls and boys into school and achieve education for all.

Moreover, EI believes the focus has to be, not only on equal access to school, but also on equal opportunities in learning. Tackling gender stereotypes within the classroom and introducing gender-sensitive curricula is also crucial to achieving this.

Violence against women According to the UN, one out of every three girls born today will face some form of violence in her life time.

"Violence against women and girls can be physical, sexual, psychological or economic," points out the joint trade union statement, No Compromise on Women’s Rights: Zero Tolerance for Violence against Women and Girls!, released for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

EI considers that an important issue for trade unions is gender-based violence at work and in the home. This violence persists on daily basis, in different ways, and is a major challenge to the goal of equality between women and men worldwide.

EI also believes quality public education for all is an essential part of any strategy to address the structural causes of violence against women and girls.

EI on the move for equality “Challenging stereotypes in education and society, tackling violence against women, promoting pay equity, women’s workplace rights and economic empowerment, as well as enhancing work-life balance for women; these are some of the key priorities of EI’s equality work,” EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, stated.

“Eliminating the gap in gender representation in decision-making bodies is also a key priority for education unionists,” he added.

These and other issues will be addressed by EI next year at the EI Second World Women’s Conference (WWC2) On the Move for Equality: from words to action from 7-9 April 2014 in Dublin, Ireland.

To find out more about EI’s work on gender equality, please go here