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Leadership in social justice at the core of women’s agenda

The Women’s Caucus met today in the framework of the 8th EI World Congress. In her welcoming remarks, Susan Hopgood, president of Education International (EI) reminded participants of the Congress theme – Educators and their unions taking the lead – because “we have to…who will if not us?”

“Many of you will remember the 3rd World Women’s Conference (WWC) held in 2018 in Marrakech whose theme also focussed on leadership in education unions. We highlighted strategies and tools to ensure women are more represented in education and their unions.” Among the main insights gained at the WWC, Hopgood highlighted the importance of securing social justice in and through education, as well as through our respective organisations: “We need to place an emphasis on leadership that is equitable and inclusive in terms of what we say and what we do. We must lead by example by demonstrating integrity and by insisting for equity. We need to position equity and inclusiveness front and centre of our vision and practice as leaders for social justice.


She then invited the two guest speakers to describe how they practice social justice in their leadership.

Rashidah Shuib, Board Member, Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Womenemphasised that “Leadership is not about me or about you. It’s about the agenda. It’s about issues. When you are dealing with issues, social justice provides conceptual clarity. I think social justice demands that we accept it as an ideology which becomes very political. And we have to understand the rules of this political game and engage in advocacy with evidence-based arguments.”

For her part, Sai Jyothirmal Racherla of the Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women, believes leadership cannot exist in isolation. “The eco-system has to resonate with the concept of leadership. It is not about learning outcomes… we need to look beyond and examine social outcomes.”

The parallel roundtable discussions examined women’s leadership and union cultures & structures; strategies to increase inclusive leadership in education unions; unions’ efforts to advance gender equality both within the union and in education across regions, and ways to counter regressive trends, especially hate speech against women’s rights and gender equality in too many countries.

Haldis Holst, EI Deputy General Secretary, gave an oral report highlighting the EI@25 review: Review of Work to Advance Gender Equality in Education, Unions and in Society. She indicated that 2018 marked 25 years since EI came into existence and how it was time to review EI gender equality policies and structures as they evolved over the last 25 years.

“Together, we still have much work to do” she stated, indicating that some of the challenges faced relate to:

  • Leadership
  • Gender-related social norms
  • Mainstreaming and avoiding silos
  • Further developing safe spaces and men’s involvement
  • Multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination


On the positive side, Holst also urged participants to celebrate victories achieved. The most recent victory is the 2019 Centenary International Labour Conference adopting a new Convention and Recommendation on violence and harassment in the world of work.

Dianne Woloschuk, Chair of the EI Status of Women Committee, invited the women candidates on stage to articulate their vision and reasons as to why they are running for office at the EI Congress.

In closing, Woloschuk urged participants to make their voices heard at Congress by not hesitating to take the microphones to articulate a women’s perspective on a resolution during debates.



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