Education International
Education International

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: 25 November

published 24 November 2008 updated 24 November 2008

The 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an important moment to reaffirm and raise awareness of women’s rights. The journey to equality has witnessed the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW 1979), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC 1989).

Violence against women and girls remains a challenging struggle that has gained international recognition as a grave social and human rights concern, and that affects all societies, rich and poor, women and men.

“As teacher unions we must increase our efforts to end impunity regarding violence against women and girls. We must use all means available to bring about the end of impunity for those who repress, kill, and threaten other human beings. Democracy, respect for human rights and equality, and quality public education for all children are fundamental challenges for all societies, and especially for EI members,” said Jan Eastman, Deputy General Secretary of Education International.

There is no reliable data on the number of victims of harassment, bullying or intimidation at work and in the public sphere, whether at home or at school, during times of peace or conflict, from sexual exploitation to trafficking, early marriage and honour crimes. In all these areas, most incidents remain under-reported and few statistics are available. Teacher unions are also witnessing new and emerging phenomena such as cyber-bullying, sex industry on the internet and children victimized at ever-younger ages.

“Safety and security don’t just happen: they are the result of collective consensus and public investment,” said Nelson Mandela in 2002. The dimension of the violence against women and girls is unacceptable.

Teachers’ unions have a key role to play in combating attitudes towards gender-based violence. Such violations of human rights, whether physical, mental or verbal, all constitute obstacles to access, retention and success in the school system, particularly for girls.

In the area of good practices, teachers’ unions have addressed and see progress in:

  • Raising awareness and challenging prevalent stereotypes that contribute to inaction
  • Working out a clear definition of what constitutes violence
  • Negotiating harassment procedures in the workplace
  • Integrating gender-based violence in the trade union rights education programs
  • Promoting school-wide healthy behaviours using curriculum and extra-curricular opportunities
  • Learning to recognize the signs of impending violence and/or reporting incidents
  • Promoting the EI Declaration on Professional Ethics (2001)
  • Ensuring the process includes disciplinary action where warranted

EI renews its commitments to achieve the aim of non-discrimination policies, ending violence against women and girls. Teacher unions are taking action at all levels, with members, students, parents, education authorities, employers and governments.

“Every single incident is one too many. Governments have been slow in translating their commitments into effective measures for gender equality in and through education,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.