Education International
Education International

Women’s rights: from law to practice

published 14 July 2011 updated 15 July 2011

In one week, hundreds of teacher unionists from all over the world will convene in Cape Town for Education International’s Women’s Caucus, a day before the start of the sixth EI World Congress. One of the main themes will be closing the implementation gap and making women’s rights reality.

In 2010 EI conducted an extensive study among its member organisations on the status of women in unions, education and society. A central message of this study was that even though almost all countries have gender equality enshrined in their legal systems, these laws often lack proper implementation and are inadequately enforced.

Similarly, the recently published UN Women flagship report “Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012: In Pursuit of Justice” points out that equality between women and men is guaranteed in the constitutions of 139 countries and territories – but implementation gaps make these guarantees hollow promises, having little impact on the day-to-day lives of women.

For example, although 117 countries have equal pay laws, women are still paid up to 30% less than men in many countries. Additionally, women still do more unpaid domestic and caring work than men in every region of the world. Globally, 53% of working women – 600 million in total – are in vulnerable jobs, such as self-employment, domestic work or unpaid work for family businesses, which often lack the protection of labour laws.

EI Deputy General Secretary Jan Eastman said: “Inequalities between women and men have been further perpetuated through recent cuts in public services and development aid, putting the advancements made in the last decades at risk. Through collective advocacy and concerted action on the national and international fronts, trade unions are striving to close this implementation gap.”