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education unions move forward on inclusion, diversity and safety in schools

The capacity-building workshop on “Teachers’ unions for inclusion: embracing diversity and promoting safe schools” has provided a forum for Education International’s Nepalese affiliates to discuss and develop tools to influence national policies on inclusive education and safe schools for all; students and teachers.

Education International (EI) members from the Nepal National Teachers’ Association (NNTA), the Nepal Teachers’ Association (NTA) and the Sansthagat Vidyalaya Schickshak Union Nepal (ISTU) participated in this workshop organised by the EI Asia-Pacific (EIAP) regional office in cooperation with the UNESCO Bangkok office from 24-25 November in Kathmandu, Nepal.  

Anand Singh, Chief Regional Coordinator of the EIAP, welcomed the twenty-three union leaders and activists and highlighted EI’s role in promoting non-discrimination policies in education and in unions. He stressed the need for education unions to continue promoting human and trade union rights for all.

Political advances in Nepal have not necessarily been translated into improvements in the daily lives of lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, including students and education workers, who may experience discrimination and violence in aspects of their lives such as employment, education and family.

Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Education Hari Lamsal detailed measures taken by his office to promote inclusive education.  Nepal ranks high on LGBTI rights, it is one the few Asian countries to include a third gender in official documents, and is also the first country in Asia to explicitly protect gender and sexual minorities in its constitution. But it still has much to do to translate law into practice.

Under-Secretary at Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens Bharat Sharma noted that laws helped to reduce discrimination against LGBTI persons. However, progress enacting laws to ensure the right to obtain an appropriate passport, to same sex marriage, to property inheritance and a number of other issues has been very slow in the recent years.

Kabir Singh, Regional Advisor HIV and Health, UNESCO Bangkok Office, acknowledged the existence of  discrimination based on sexual orientation in too many countries, and pleaded for the expression of sexual orientation and gender identity and a multi-layered approach to making schools safe.

Activists Bhumika Shrestha and Bharat Shrestha informed the workshop on issues faced by LGBTI people and the work done by the Blue Diamond Society in Nepal. Questions regarding making school safe and inclusive for all,  teachers and students, and the role of teachers were further discussed with the speakers.

With the support of Sagar Nath Pyakural, former EIAP staff member, participants drafted union policies and action plans to help make schools safe for all children by focusing on the role of education in ending discrimination. The plans will  be considered in the upcoming national executive board meetings of the participating unions.

Related activities led by the EIAP regional office and supported by UNESCO Bangkok have been organised for education unions in the Philippines and the next trade union activity will be organised in Fiji.

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