Southern Africa: unions unite to advance the gender agenda

published 5 July 2017 updated 19 July 2017

Female leadership, school-related gender-based violence, and resource mobilisation were among the many topics that came under the spotlight at the Southern Africa Women in Education Network Gender Training and Advocacy workshop.

Over 30 participants from 16 Education International (EI) affiliate unions in nine countries learned about and shared their experiences of gender issues, as well as policies and practices on equality work in unions at the Southern Africa Women in Education Network (SAWEN) Gender Training and Advocacy workshop, held in Gaborone, Botswana, from 27-29 June.

The participants also adopted the SAWEN Gender Policy and discussed ways to stimulate union leaders’ interest in supporting and promoting women in trade union unions and education. Recommendations were also provided to trade unions to this effect.


The workshop was opened by the presidents of the Botswana Teachers' Union (BTU) and the Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU). Both emphasised the importance of women in all aspects of life, including in their homes, schools, and society at large. The union leaders also shared ways to make teacher organisations more inclusive and encouraged women to demonstrate good leadership.

Ten union presidents and general secretaries from the BTU, BOSETU, Namibia National Teachers' Union (NANTU), South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU), the Zambia National Union of Teachers (ZNUT), and the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) also joined the participants to discuss SAWEN sustainability and unity within EI teacher organisations in the South African region.

Unity and empowerment

Mugwena Maluleke, EI Vice President and SADTU General Secretary, closed the meeting by thanking SAWEN and unions for being so enthusiastic in implementing EI Resolutions. He urged the union leaders to further empower women and continue their engagement in the struggle for gender equality.

He also appealed to the Southern Africa Teachers' Organisation (SATO) and the Association for Non-Aligned Teacher Unions in Southern Africa (ANTUSA), the two teacher organisations in the Southern Africa sub-region, to open a dialogue to combine their efforts and successfully counter de-professionalisation, privatisation and commercialisation of education, and government attacks on trade unions.