The importance of sharing success stories and common challenges on gender equality issues within women’s networks, unions and communities have been reaffirmed in women’s network meetings in India and Malaysia, organised by the Asia-Pacific Office of Education International.
India: revival and sharing
In New Delhi, India, a second meeting of the Project Committee of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Women’s Network (SWN) was attended by seven committee members. They came to the meeting on 28 February-2 March from the All India Federation of Teachers’ Organisations (AIFTO) and the All India Primary Teachers’ federation (AIPTF)/India, the Central Organisation of Teachers (COT)/Pakistan, the Joint Sri Lanka Women Teacher’s Network (JSLWTN)/Sri Lanka, the Nepal Teachers’ Association (NTA) and the Nepal National Teachers’ Association (NTTA)/Nepal, all Education International (EI) affiliates.
The overall objective was to revive the women’s network in the South Asian sub-region. Shashi Bala Singh, Chief Coordinator of EI’s Asia Pacific Regional Office (EIAP), gave the background to the SWN structure, indicating the network’s strength and previous pro-active undertakings.
Another speaker, Astrid Thomassen of the Union of Education Norway, outlined the objectives and expectations of the development cooperation. “The development indicators and baseline information of gender equality are important and vital for any organisation to move on and be independent and sustainable in the future,” she said.
In addition, the meeting focused on how information can be shared and disseminated to their respective organisations through mechanisms such as a website, brochures, Facebook and publications.
The participants also agreed to build action plans around sharing success stories and common challenges on gender equality issues in the sub region within the women’s network, union and community.
The common priorities of the SWN network are: the recruitment and retention of young women in membership and leadership, achieving an active and functional women’s network, and making women aware of their legal rights and preventing them from harassment in society, at home and at work.
Malaysia: attracting young women within the union and identifying programs strengthening the women’s network
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Women’s Network (AWN) Project Committee met on 26-28 March to re-establish the network. Eleven participants from five countries attended: the Cambodia Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA) and the National Educators’ Association for Development (NEAD)/Cambodia, the Teachers’ Association of the Republic of Indonesia (PGRI)/Indonesia, the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) and the Sarawak Teachers’ Union (STU)/Malaysia, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the federation of Free Workers-Trade Federation VIII (FFW), the Teachers’ Organisation of the Philippine Public Sector (TOPPS) and the National Alliance of Teachers and Office Workers (SMP-NATOW)/Philippines, and the private School Teachers’ Association of Thailand (PSTAT)/Thailand.
Pro-active empowerment and goals
Participants discussed South-South cooperation and the network’s sustainability, with or without assistance. The empowerment of women and the long-term promotion of gender equality were also one of the meeting’s main objectives, as well as strategies to attract young women to the union and identifying programmes to strengthen the AWN.
At the end of the three days, an achievable planning matrix was completed, with responsibilities shared among the committee members.
Decisions taken will be submitted to EIAP coordinator Pathma Krishnan and through constant communication via social media, such as Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp.
“During the committee meeting, the sharing of experiences was encouraged as a major tool,” Krishnan said. “For example, in some countries like Cambodia, teachers earn around US$60 (€56) per month, and they have to work two or three jobs to sustain their families. In the Philippines, teachers are migrating to other countries to work as teachers or in other services like domestic helpers.”