Education International
Education International

European teacher unions’ voice heard at UNESCO debate on gender equality

published 5 April 2016 updated 8 April 2016

Jobs and qualifications must not depend on someone’s gender. That was the key message reiterated by the European Trade Union Committee for Education in a debate on Gender equality and Education on 18 March at the European Parliament.

The event was organised by the UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels, Belgium, to mark the launch of the eAtlas on Gender Inequality in Education.This reaffirms UNESCO’s commitment in fostering gender equality in and through education.

Maria Arena, a member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, and Susan Flocken, Coordinator at the Education International (EI) European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education, contributed to the debate. They shared ideas on how to encourage gender equality in and through education in Europe, underlining the importance of addressing stereotypes in the early education system.

The debate on Gender equality and Education

Arena also talked about the importance of paternity leave, saying that only 2.7 per cent of men take parental leave in Europe. Without a good balance between family and work, “we cannot fight for gender equality”, she said.

Flocken highlighted the importance of teaching children that there are no male or female jobs. Society needs to ensure that women will not get a job or reach a position only because they are women, but because of their qualification.

Role of unions

“Working to achieve gender equality in unions, education, and society has been a principal aim and a major work priority for EI since its Founding Congress in 1995,” highlighted EI Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst.

Many education unions and their women’s networks play a key role in shaping education systems and developing societies. As such, unions need to be “a role model in living the values of equality, diversity and empowerment in all aspects of union work”, she added.

Promoting equality and encouraging diversity is core business for education, through questioning gender stereotypes, providing windows of opportunity, opening doors of access, and building quality, positive, inclusive learning environments, she said.