March 8th 2018 may go down in the history books as the first International Women’s Day celebration after the ‘global uprising for women’s rights’ that started in 2017.
On January 21st 2017, six million people in more than six hundred cities on all of the world’s continents took to the streets in coordinated ‘women’s marches’. The rise of conservatism and right wing political leadership in many countries and a regression of hard-won human rights across the world, were key factors that spurred women to organise, protest and resist. In the latter half of 2017, mobilisation coalesced around the viral #MeToo social media campaign, which shone a glaring light on the high prevalence of sexual abuse, harassment and violence that countless women and girls face in all spheres and walks of life.
This bold, determined, fearless activism continues into 2018: International Women’s Day returns to its labour roots, as women’s rights organisations and activists call on the world’s women to go on strike from ‘paid work in offices and factories, or unpaid domestic work in homes, communities and bedrooms’. The call to strike is being used as a tool to mobilise and organise women internationally through the building of alliances and a global call to action. The focus is on issues including: ending gender-based violence, securing reproductive and environmental justice for all, as well as full and equitable labour and social rights.
As education unions, our core mission is directly linked to the mission of this global movement for change. Taking action and advocating for free, equitable and inclusive education for all, and promoting and defending human and trade union rights is our unique contribution to the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality.
The 3rd EI World Women’s Conference focused on the lack of women in positions of leadership within education and in education unions. As she opened the conference, EI President, Susan Hopgood noted that the conference took place “Against a backdrop of [a] massive global momentum for change. Change in the ways that women and men relate to each other in our societies; and most pertinently for us as education unions, change in the inequalities between men and women in the workplace”.
An EI delegation to the 62nd Session of the UN Women’s Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW62) will join other labour delegations and women’s rights organisations and activists to call on governments to address the rising gender inequalities and negative impacts of climate change in the lives of rural women.
The official 2018 UN Women’s Day theme highlights rural women, who make up over a quarter of the world’s population and play a vital role in improving livelihoods and strengthening communities through their contributions to food security and nutrition, income generation and providing for the well-being of their families. But rural women also disproportionately face systemic and persistent barriers to the full enjoyment of their human rights. They are more likely to be offered short term, precarious contracts and lower paid jobs and, face widespread gender-based violence.
The labour delegations at UN CSW62 will highlight trade union organising by and for rural women as critical to ensuring an equitable future of work, and advocate for the adoption of a new ILO Convention on gender-based violence in the world of work.
The global education union movement celebrates International Women’s Day, and we re-affirm our solidarity with the women’s rights movements all over the world. We recognize that the time to make women’s rights a reality in the lives of all of the world’s women, is now.
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