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EI member organisations in five countries meet to validate the report of a research on women’s participation and leadership

Women’s participation Leadership

The report of a research on Women’s Participation and Leadership in EI member organisations in Africa, conducted by the African Women in Education Network (AWEN), was spotlighted at a recent virtual workshop organised by Education International (EI) Africa. The workshop focused on the need to address the barriers to women’s participation and leadership in the education union movement.
The workshop, which took place on 22nd September 2022,  gathered over 60 participants, especially from the unions’ top leadership and gender coordinators,  the AWEN Advisory Committee members, representatives of partner organisations, as well as staff from the EI Africa Regional Office. Its purpose was to provide an opportunity for the EI Africa member organisations involved in the research to critically discuss the research report and validate the findings. 
In his introductory remarks, Dr Dennis Sinyolo, Regional Director of EI Africa, explained that an evaluation of AWEN carried out in 2018  noted that some progress towards gender equality among EI member organisations in Africa had been achieved, but women’s representation in union structures and leadership remained negligible. “That is the reason why we decided to carry out a study on Women’s Participation and Leadership in Education Unions: Investigating Barriers and Identifying Solutions,” he said. While highlighting the relevance of the research findings, Dr. Sinyolo stated that EIRAF and its member unions need to have a conversation about how education unions can address the barriers to women’s participation and leadership, identified in the report. “For us to make progress, we need to have open and frank conversations about the challenges and possible solutions identified in the report; In addition to women, such conversations should also involve men and senior union leaders”, he added. 
Mrs. Leah Kasaji, the AWEN President, also pointed out  that "this research which has indeed helped identify barriers and solutions to the low representation for women in unions’ leadership  also came up with strategies that unions can use to grow women in leadership and will assist unions and AWEN make significant progress toward gender equality”. 
The findings of the study, carried out in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and Senegal were presented by the Consultant, Tracey Konstant, who explained the progress in women’s union leadership in Africa, the gender transformative policy and others. Participants also had the opportunity to debate on the obstacles to women gaining access to leadership, which include cultural and traditional norms, family responsibilities, lack of support for women candidates vying for union positions, among others. The participants went on to suggest strategies for ensuring the full participation of women in union activities, structures and leadership. These included leadership training, quota systems and mentorship programmes.
Dr. Dennis Sinyolo, in his conclusion, indicated that the study’s results show that affirmative action works but is not sufficient to ensure the participation of women in leadership. We should therefore continue to promulgate affirmative action through our union policies and statutes, while at the same time building women’s power for change. AWEN and the Africa Young Educators Network (AYEN) will continue to play a pivotal role in building women power, capacity and leadership.  “As we have heard again and again, capacity building, role modelling, mentorship and financing are important in preparing women for leadership, he stressed. “Let’s continue with the fight for gender equality in our schools, education systems and unions”, he concluded.