The 41st EI Executive Board, meeting on 19-21 March in Brussels, Belgium, has adopted the EI Global Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP), and endorsed a second EI World Women’s Conference.
EI Gender Equality Action Plan
The GEAP focuses on three priorities during the period up to 2015:
- Promoting gender equality within trade unions
- Girls’ access to and participation in quality public education
- Women’s economic empowerment
Each priority is linked to existing EI policies on equality: the 2011 EI Resolution on Gender Equality notes that although women outnumber men in education unions globally and in most countries, progress in securing women’s participation in union leadership has been slow and uneven. Girls’ access to, and participation in, education has been a focus point of EI’s work since the first World Congress in 1995 and the adoption of the Resolution on the Girl Child in 1998. The 2007 EI Resolution on Gender and Pay Equity emphasises that pay equity, a central aspect of women’s economic empowerment, is a cross-cutting element in EI’s equality work.
The GEAP will frame EI’s gender equality work at all levels, as it will be adapted to suit local, regional and sub-regional priorities by all EI affiliates.
2014 EI Second World Women’s Conference
Executive Board members also discussed the Second EI World Women’s Conference (WWCII), to be held from 7-9 April 2014 in Dublin, Ireland. The theme for WWCII is ‘Women in Trade Unions and in Education: From Words to Action’.
The expected conference outcomes are:
- A fruitful exchange of information between participants of examples of good practices for increasing women’s participation at all levels of education trade unions, and of education union approaches to addressing the gender gaps in education;
- A robust documentation of conference proceedings, discussions and recommendations in a WWCII Conference Report.
The EI Executive Board further accepted the recommendation made by the EI Status of Women Committee (SWC) that 15 to 20 places will be reserved for young trade unionists up to the age of 35, who will participate in the Conference and lead some of the Conference workshops.
“The participation of young people will bring a new life in our fight and have a great impact on our policies,” said the EI SWC President, Juçara Dutra Vieira.
She stressed that the Conference will entail a process involving as much of EI affiliates’ work on gender equality issues as possible, with the aim of making education unions’ gender policies more concrete, in a shift away from merely establishing equality policies, towards more effective and sustainable implementation.
57th UN Commission on the Status of Women
The successes achieved by women trade unionists at the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW 57), were also highlighted and commended. 85 women unionist delegates from 27 countries, 4 global unions and 2 national centres participated in the event from 4-15 March in New-York, USA.
The labour delegation participated and lobbied in many parallel and side events to influence the outcome document of the UNCSW 57 (the ‘Agreed Conclusions’), adding trade union perspectives on the elimination and prevention of violence against women and girls, which was the priority theme of this UNCSW 57.
The Agreed Conclusions contain two references to trade unions as key stakeholders in the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls, and to the need for women, including migrant women, to be able to have and retain decent work.
The references to education contain strong positive language, as exemplified in paragraph 17: The Commission stresses that the right to education is a human right, and that eliminating illiteracy, ensuring equal access to education, in particular in rural and remote areas, and closing the gender gap at all levels of education empowers women and girls and thereby contributes to the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls (from the unedited final version of the Agreed Conclusions, published on 18 March).
On-going work to achieve gender equality in trade unions, education and society
“Promoting equality and encouraging diversity is core business for education, through questioning gender stereotypes, providing windows of opportunity, opening doors of access, and building positive, inclusive learning environments,” highlighted EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “The EI SWC and women’s networks are doing a wonderful job at it!”
He added that the EI Executive Board has shown once again great interest in working to achieve gender equality in unions, education and society, which has been a principal aim and a priority for EI and its affiliates since the 1995 World Congress.