Women around the world continue to face systemic discrimination and inequality in education opportunities and access to decent work.
On International Women’s Day, educators worldwide are demanding greater investments in girls’ education and training opportunities leading to full employment and decent work for women. The year 2011 marks the centenary of International Women’s Day celebrations. Since 1911, this day has been a global event, celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future, and mobilising to address the challenges. Around the globe, EI member unions organise rallies, marches, fairs and debates, and reflect on the progress made to advance women’s equality, assess the challenges facing girls and women, look at ways to improve the quality of life and to actualize rights, and to empower girls and women in all spheres of human endeavour. A strong delegation of trade unionists participated in the 55th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in February 2011. For the first time, gender, education and decent work were included together as priority themes in the UN CSW working agenda. EI President Susan Hopgood said: “We know that investment in all quality public services is a key driver of development. As such, trade unions have serious concerns with the reduction to budgets that support public services which governments have undertaken in response to the current economic crisis. If Millennium Development (MDG) and Education for All (EFA) goals are to be achieved, the investment in the public sector should be increased, not decreased.” EI Deputy General Secretary, Jan Eastman, added: “Strategies to improve access to education have been put in place in many countries. These have resulted in increased enrolment numbers for girls, and progress towards gender parity in primary school completion. High drop-out rates are still prevalent, however, and they are higher for girls in a number of developing countries, especially in secondary education, which is key for empowering girls. Drop-out rates are clearly associated with poverty, and also the related phenomenon of child labour. Girls face additional challenges because of the HIV epidemic, work in the home, and also of vulnerable, at risk employment in the entertainment industry or as domestic workers. When education is of sufficient quality, when girls are safe, fed, and pay no fees, parents will send them to school, not to work. Gender inclusive policies aimed at achieving quality primary and secondary education and ensuring universal access are the key to overcoming these development challenges and structural discriminations.” At EI’s First World Women’s Conference in January 2011 – On the Move for Equality, nearly 400 teacher trade unionists from all corners of the world came together to discuss strategies for advancing and empowering women and girls in today’s world. “Our energies are focused on improving girls’ access to education, eliminating gender stereotypes in education, and fighting for decent work and good working conditions, including pay equity, for women. We are united to make our voice heard – the voice of teachers worldwide for equality and human rights,” said Eastman.