Social inequities between men and women remain striking in Latin America. There are few issues that Latin American education workers need to discuss as urgently as gender equity.
Over 70% of teachers in Latin America are women, but on average women hold no more than 30% of leadership positions in the unions.
In light of this, EI together with 32 education sector unions from 19 countries in the region launched the "Regional Equality with a Gender Perspective" project on International Women’s Day in 2007, and within the framework of the 6th EI Latin American Regional Conference.
The project aims to promote policies that will foster the integration of women in the structure of the unions, which is essential not only for strengthening the organisations but also for making them more democratic.
One key aim of the regional equity project is to support the Network of Latin American Women Education Workers.
Another important aspect of this project is that it includes cooperating EI member organizations, organized into an Interinstitutional Committee, for support, including funding, to the project. The implications and opportunities for networking are thus immense. The members working with EI and EILA are CTF (Canada), F.E.CC.OO, FETE (Spain), Lärarförbundet (Sweden), NEA (United States) and UEN (Norway).
Since the project was launched activities have started with 23 organisations in 13 countries.
Loreto Muñoz, Coordinator of the EI regional office in Latin America, visited these organisations and discussed in detail with the Executive Boards and Gender teams in each union how to implement policies with a gender perspective. The main objective was to assess the current situation within each union on what activities have already been undertaken and which problems and challenges remain to achieve gender equity.
The analisis revealed on the one side that all organisations already had special activities for women and gender issues in the past. Special working groups evolved in some organisations that focus specifically on gender issues and a gender language has been implemented in the documents of the organisations. All unions clearly expressed that they were prepared to continue with these activities, giving special support to a Regional Network.
On the other side, however, it was found out that cultural resistance towards gender equity, fear of addressing the issue and a lack of political importance given to this subject prevail in some unions. There is a lack of institutional structures within the unions (only 15 of them have a national gender seat), and the approach to gender issues is somewhat narrow.
Action in response to the challenges revealed by the first situation analysis will include: train national and provincial leadership, organise national networks, encourage political and cultural discussion within the unions and articulate gender perspective policies in countries where there are more than one teachers’ union.
In general it appears that Latin American teachers’ organisations lack a concrete agenda for their gender and equality policies. Although almost every organisation has invested human and financial resources in these issues and activism has increased it is without a sense of development and commitment.
The gender equity programme and the regional office should both be able to offer support in developing specific policies providing more training and research, and improving communication within the Latin American gender network.
In the same period the Network of Latin American Women Education Workers focused on three main issues:
1. womens' participation in decision making processes within teacher trade unions,
2. the impact of the world trade agenda on employment and education from a gender perspective and
3. non-sexist education.
For a summary, in Spanish, of the project from Loreto Muñoz, Coordinator of the EI regional office in Latin America please click on the link below.