Education International
Education International

Malaysia: Gender equity crucial to quality education

published 10 September 2014 updated 12 September 2014

Promoting gender equality in unions, education, and society was the central theme at a recent workshop in Malaysia hosted by the Sarawak Teachers’ Union (STU).

The workshop, held in Kuching, Sarawak, from 26-28 August, gathered 17 participants from Education International’s national affiliates, the STU and the Sabah Teachers’ Union (STU-Sabah), and discussed union updates, the Second EI World Women’s Conference(WWCII) held in April 2014 in Dublin, Ireland, and EI’s Unite for Quality Education campaign.

During the three-day workshop, the participants covered topics such as the organisation and retention of women in unions and in leadership positions, core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). They also discussed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, discrimination, and school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV).

At the end of the workshop, it was agreed that:

  • STU-Sabah will set up a campaign for World Teachers’ Day
  • STU will launch a national Unite for Quality Education campaign on 17 September 2014 at its biennial delegates’ conference
  • A joint action plan on a SRGBV campaign, to be launched at end-March 2015

The joint action plan on SRGBV arose after attendees told of their difficulties tackling this issue due to the way higher authorities ignore its seriousness. The SRGBV road map gave unionists an insight on how to deal with this serious issue, and outlined how and what unions can do. According to attendees, this was vital given that perpetrators are not always punished and victims may be transferred to another location or school.

Awareness-raising campaigns

The workshop also looked at promoting gender equality in leadership positions, increasing women’s participation in the decision-making process, and gaining knowledge and enhancing social networking.

“Participants were very enthusiasts and asked for EI’s help in organising future seminars on education in the Malaysian context, and to hold a workshop at least once a year for up to 30 participants,” said EI Regional Asia-Pacific Coordinator Pathma Krishnan. “The younger women and men need exposure to training and workshops on national and international issues. Affiliates see this as an important tool to attract them to participate and understand what is happening in education and trade unionism globally.”

Krishnan also highlighted how 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.

“Teachers are at the heart of education,” she said. “Quality education needs qualified and motivated teachers with fair working conditions, including equal pay for women and men. Teachers must be trained to deal with the dynamics of sexism, racism, and homophobia in the classroom.”

Working to achieve gender equality in unions, education, and society has been a principal aim and a major work priority for EI since its Founding Congress in 1995, and this is reflected in the work of all five of EI’s regions. Many education unions and their women’s networks are bringing changes and transformative solutions to unions and society.

EI’s Gender Equality Action Plan

EI also developed its Gender Equality Action Plan, a framework which will enable EI and its affiliates to translate education unions’ policies, rhetoric, and activities relating to gender equality into action. It highlights three main priorities in the run-up to 2015:

1. Promoting gender equality within unions

2. Securing girls’ access to and participation in quality public education

3. Promoting and securing women’s economic empowerment

Additional priorities, which will be addressed in the post-2015 period, include women in decision-making and participation in the public sphere; gender sensitive education to overcome gender stereotypes; balancing work and family responsibilities; eliminating violence against women; strengthening and linking EI women’s networks.