Worlds of Education

Thematic Series:

Gender equality

#8March: Takeaways from EI World Women’s Conference by Matilda Gustafsson, Lärarförbundet, Sweden.

published 8 March 2018 updated 11 January 2023
written by:

"Three days filled with women's engagement, struggle and sharing. Wise, experienced colleagues from all over the world."

- Have you heard of the Teflon Test? I ask the woman in front of me. She is a strong woman who has dared to face many challenges in her life. She is an official in a strong union in an African country and she is one of those who dare to talk about sexual abuse in the trade union movement.

I explain what the test is about. It shows how "resilient" one is against discrimination. Or, in other words, how privileged one is. In a questionnaire, you tick the times when you have been discriminated or treated differently due to, for example, skin colour, age, sex, sexuality or religion. The fewer boxes you tick, the more privileged you are in the context in which you live. The test is based on the grounds for discrimination and is quite commonly used in many contexts in Sweden. It is a test to open your eyes to your own privileges and, hopefully, will help you fight power imbalances.

"I would have to tick many boxes" says the woman and laughs.And I laugh with her. What to do when the world's time is passing and economies are progressing but discrimination in many respects remains the same? Sometimes you have to laugh just to keep it up.

We continue the conversation with others, and talk about what it's like to be a woman in a separatist room, a room with only women. It can be a strengthening experience, open and inviting. But in such a space it also becomes clear that discrimination has many layers. Discrimination is not just about gender: it can be about origin, age, about differences as aspects of power.

As a "young" person, I have in many contexts experienced that I face other challenges than my older colleagues or peers. It is easy to dismiss me as inexperienced, ignorant and sometimes youthfully naive. And it is often true that I, who do not have fifteen years in the union to fall back on, lack many of the experiences and skills my older colleagues have.

- I for one ask my older colleagues: teach me! exclaims Chriss from Sri Lanka. Teach me!

This is what I bring back home from these three days filled with women's involvement, struggle and life situations. Wise, experienced colleagues from all over the world, I beg you: teach us! Let young people claim their space and help us on our journey. Together we are even wiser.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.