Education International
Education International

Unions advocate for gender equality and decent work at the UN

published 21 February 2011 updated 6 April 2011

Education International, in partnership with other Global Unions, is bringing the expertise of teachers to the 55th UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) in New York, USA.

The main theme of this year’s UNCSW is ‘Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work’. A joint trade union delegation comprising almost 90 delegates from around the world are participating in the annual event. The trade unionists include 27 participants from 15 education unions who are representing EI. A joint statement “From the Classroom to the Workplace – Positioning Women for Decent Work in the Knowledge Economy” was submitted to the UN in November 2010 by EI, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and Public Services International (PSI). EI Deputy General Secretary, Jan Eastman, said: “Denying women opportunities for full participation in science and technology results in the loss of a valuable resource pool, much needed for contributing to shaping a gender-inclusive, people-centred, knowledge economy. It is also a denial of women’s fundamental rights. “Exclusions and discriminations begin early, and are perpetuated and exacerbated along the continuum from school to working life. “Policies for quality education need to be formulated in a gender-inclusive way along three axes: improving curricula and educational methodologies, improving the physical and material environment, and improving the cadre of teachers in quantity and quality.” Eastman will be a panellist at the discussion on ‘Quality education for girls leads to decent jobs for women’, which takes place at the UN on 23 February. The debate is organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Teachers will be well represented at the UNCSW, with two representatives of EI member organisations speaking in other debates. Ilze Trapenciere, an advisor to the Latvian teachers’ organisation, LIZDA, will speak on an important UN panel entitled, ‘Key policy initiatives and capacity-building on gender mainstreaming: focus on education and training’ on 23 February. Meanwhile, Diane Schneider, a member of the national GLBT Cadre of the USA teachers’ organisation, NEA, will speak at the ‘Sexuality, homophobia and transphobia: the need to improve access to education and work’, also taking place on 23 February. This year is the first time that gender, education and decent work are all included as priority themes in the UNCSW’s working agenda. Global Unions have been building up this momentum over 20 years. Joining trade union forces for advocacy, networking and working in solidarity were raised as key aspects for success at the workshop session, ‘Advocacy: Can UN Women close the equality gap?’, organised at EI’s First World Women’s Conference – On the Move for Equality, which took place in Bangkok in January 2011. Participants discussed the role of the new UN Women agency and developed strategies for making teachers’ voices heard in the international arena. Eastman added: “Promoting equality and encouraging diversity is core business for education, through questioning gender stereotypes, opening doors of access, and building positive, inclusive learning environments. This event allowed us to focus our efforts and work together with a united voice.” You can follow the UNCSW joint trade union blog for updates and latest news: http://unioncsw.world-psi.org/.