Kuala Lumpur: More than 80 trade unionists from the Asia-Pacific region gathered at the Women’s Caucus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, prior to the 7th EI regional conference. The Caucus theme was: “Achieving gender equality through ending discrimination (against women and girls) in education”.
Women trade unionists talk about issues in their unions and countries that affect women and girls, said EI President Susan Hopgood, as she welcomed the wide representation of Asia-Pacific countries at the event. “We must make sure that these issues are reflected in the work of the Conference, are at the forefront of the Conference. It is our challenge.”
Women must be represented in leadership positions within their unions, she said. Ms Hopgood also called on the region’s trade unions to take up the struggle against gender-based violence: “We must take a stand against all violence against women and girls. We have a role as unionists and educators. We can impact and change young people’s attitude on those issues. We want a better place for women in education, unions and society. We are nearing the 2015 deadline for achieving Education for All. We will only move forward when our male colleagues move forward with us. We must demand of them their continued support.”
The EI President later encouraged women activists to run for a seat on the regional committee.
Gender equity benefits all
The keynote address was delivered by Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, a women's rights advocate and Director of the AIDS Council. She explained that achieving gender equality in education is crucial for a country’s development. “International studies have shown that a country with gender equity in education has better economic growth,” she said. “There is a multiplier effect and benefits across generations and communities if girls are educated”, especially in terms of health and safety for children.
Ms Mahathir pointed out that part of the struggle to achieve gender equality within education consists of challenging gender stereotypes in the classroom and in teaching materials. She argued that there cannot be societal change if a gender-sensitive approach is not at the heart of curricula and wider educational system reforms.
Latin America: More than 100 unionists gathered in Recife, Brazil, to reflect on the role of the government and the impact of public policy on the expansion of women’s rights and the empowerment of women prior to the 9th EI regional conference in Latin America.
The meeting was opened by Brigida Rivera from CGTEN ANDEN in Nicaragua, and Vice President of the Regional Committee, who introduced the RED magazine, which is published by the Latin American Women’s Network.
Education vital to women’s political participation
Colombian Senator Gloria Ramirez spoke about structural exclusion and the barriers to women's political participation at the national level. Ms Ramirez explained how this exclusion is rooted in gender inequality in the exercise of power and decision-making.
She stressed the need for women to take up elected positions and to participate more actively in politics. Real participation in political leadership depends on the existence of formal rules for women’s inclusion in parliament and their guaranteed access to decision-making positions. Ms Ramirez stressed the need for education, training and formal qualification to enable women to exercise political and trade union leadership.
Ramirez called for campaigns to increase the visibility and participation of women at the highest levels of trade unions and within political parties. She mentioned recent setbacks in her country, where no women were elected to the new Executive Committee of FECODE.
In her capacity as a human rights defender, Ramirez accepted a letter of solidarity from the EI Latin American Women’s Workers’ Network, written in light of further threats from the paramilitary group, Los Rastrojos (see attached letter).
No more words time for action
EI’s Deputy General Secretary, Haldis Holst, called for greater clarity in discussions around public education. "It is not enough to speak about public education,” she stated. “We must say what kind of public education we want. If public education fails to reach indigenous or peasant children, it is not working as intended.” In the process leading to EI’s World Women’s Conference to be held in Dublin in April 2014, Holst said: "We must bring this discussion from Latin America to the world, and also, Latin America must listen and learn what is happening outside the region."
RED. Revista de la Red de Trabajadoras de la Internacional de la Educación para América Latina. http://www.ei-ie-al.org/publicaciones/red01_web.pdf
EI Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP) http://download.ei-ie.org/Docs/WebDepot/EI_2103_GEAP_ENG.pdf
Stream of Latin American conference: