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education trade unionists push for achievement of gender equality and empowerment of rural women and girls

Participants from Education International’s member organisations were among the over 100 trade unionists from 42 countries at the 62nd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which got underway in New York on 12 March.

Trade unions critical for securing and protecting rights for women and girls in rural areas

With the priority theme of the 62nd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) being ‘Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls’, the 1st week of CSW62 began with the Education International (EI) delegation’s usual CSW ‘Sunday Morning Conversation’, opened this year by contributions from National Education Association (NEA) Vice President, Becky Pringle, and Union of Education Norway (UEN) Executive Board Member and Chair of the Saami Committee, Gro Hartveit. The conversation allowed delegates to begin highlighting how female teachers in rural areas can benefit from joining a union.

The Chair of the EI Status of Women group, Dianne Woloschuk, President of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, focused on the difficulties faced by Indigenous communities in particular at the joint Global Unions parallel event entitled ‘Leaving No-One Behind: Unions Organising for Rural Women and Girls’ on 13 March.

On 15 March, the joint EI/UNGEI/Norway side event was on ‘Agenda 2030 for All: Gender, Learning and Teaching in Rural Contexts’. EI Deputy General Secretary, Haldis Holst represented EI on the panel, and spoke about the challenges and opportunities associated with being a female teacher in rural contexts.

Unionists take action at CSW62

Education International’s representatives also led a short action on 14 March in front of the non-violence sculpture at the UN, to commemorate the 17 students and staff who were killed in a shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on 14 February 2018.

On 15 March, the all labour participants joined a march on Park Avenue to protest the alarmingly high rates of sexual violence and harassment faced by female farm workers in Immokalee, Florida, USA.

Negotiations on the content of the CSW62 outcome document (the Agreed Conclusions), continue for a second week and will conclude on 23 March. Check the EI website for an update on the results of that process, including whether the labour and education priorities were retained in the document.

Click here for UN TV video of joint EI/UNGEI/Norway side event featuring EI Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst.

Click here for the official Global Union Federations CSW62 written statement.

Background information

Women in rural areas make up a quarter of the world’s population, and play a vital role in their communities by contributing to food security, generating income and providing for the well-being of their families. However, women and girls in rural areas continue to face systemic and persistent barriers to the full enjoyment of their human rights, including the right to education.

Girls who live in rural, remote or marginalized areas are at greater risk of not completing school. Structural barriers and entrenched discriminatory social norms lead to the gendered division of household labour and favouring of boys, early and child marriage, early motherhood, and alarmingly high rates of domestic and school-related gender-based violence. All of these problems threaten girls’ access to education and undermine attempts to achieve gender equality in education.


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