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Report on TURN SAARC Sub-Regional Workshop on Trade Union Skills Development

Organised by Education International (EI) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

2-4 July 2011, Kathmandu

Report Prepared by Dev Raj Dahal


The aspiration of South Asian women for peaceful society goes beyond "rights discourse" to capture the domain of enlightenment and emancipation. New social stratification followed by scientific and technological change and the changing nature of jobs demand professional development of teachers to respond to unfolding life-choices. In South Asia, statistical improvement on education, particularly of girl education, is fostering gender equality and the equality of people irrespective of their distinctions. Positive transformation has come from women as gender equality involved a cycle of change from personhood, family, society, public institutions to intra-state and post-national public spheres. The leadership of women leaders has made vital impact on the welfare, political agency and lives of both men and women in South Asia. Still, gender gap exists in a number of areas. Education, income and engagement are keys to the gender equalization within and across the countries. They are also passports to economic security, identity, voice and representation.

The teachers of South Asia hold hopes for meeting international educational comparison, a hope that remains partially realized owing to structural and cultural barriers arising out of social, economic, political, legal and institutional conditions. These are also the barriers to girl child education and women's empowerment. Building the solidarity of teachers unions with trade union skills can equip them with necessary energy to influence educational policies of respective governments, build confidence of their members and create a coalition with civil society for collective action. An integrated South Asia can not be created by free play of market forces alone, wider participation of citizens including teachers' unions and women would be necessary to plan for social, gender and inter-generational justice. This is where the promise of MDGs, CEDAW, ILO Core Labor Standards, Education For All and the South Asian Social Charter holds. But all suffer from under-achievements, not because of poor economic resources but because of a lack of political will of leaders. Low risk of arrest, light penalty and even impunity do not deter human trafficking to overcome a battle between market efficiency and social justice. The enforcement of SAARC Convention on Combating and Prevention of Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution too requires a strong regional political will. Effective campaign, advocacy and lobbying are needed from SAARC Women's Network, teachers unions and civil society for linking these rights to actionable public policies and attaining gender parity.

In this context, stronger union movement is not a matter of choice; it is a necessity to realize the vision of teachers for a better life, liberty and dignity. It is also a necessity to foster gender, social and inter-generational justice in the life of the union. But the notion of solidarity-the social power of teachers' unions-is a lynchpin to shape true democracy in the life of each individual member, union, nation, region and the globe and influence vital decisions and actions pertaining to the fundamental human values.

Participation and Resource Persons

There were altogether 35 participants including 10 male-India 14, Sri Lanka 8, Pakistan 1 Participants came and Nepal 12. There were six resource persons-three male and three female. One Pakistani and one Indian participant could not come due to personal reasons.

Contents and Methodology

The contents of the workshop involve EI goals of full integration of women into structures and daily work of the union, EI policy on achieving gender equality and the challenges, ILO background, ILO core Labor Standards especially focusing on equal remuneration, non-discrimination in employment and occupation, minimum age, worst form of child labor, maternity protection, CEDAW, UN Commission on Status of Women, SAARC Women's Network, MDGs and EFA's goals and their achievements, equality of gild child and migration issues.

Methodology involved lecture presentation, group discussion, group presentation, visual, country analysis about the state of MDGs, EFA, ILO Core Labor Standards and formulation of action plans for union activities in the future.

Objectives of the Workshop

a. To establish and acquire perspective on gender equality in trade union
b. To improve skills on gender equality and non-discrimination in work place and public life,
c. To improve skills about human rights instruments such as CEDAW, ILO, EFA and related documents
d. To motivate teachers' union in gender debate at national and regional level, such as maternity protection, girl's education, migrants women, etc and
e. To prepare future plans and policies and develop trade union skills about collective bargaining and make the rights of teachers implementable.


Participants expressed that the program was useful for them not only to understand about issues of gender equality but also to know each other from the participating countries and build network and solidarity as well as exchange information about union activities. One concrete achievement was that with the help of EI they will prepare a Manual in English about ILO core labor standards, and union related issues and translate in the beginning in three languages-Nepali, Hindi and Sinhalese and latter multiply in other languages depending on the need of country concerned. The participants identified 13 core areas of action in common related to gender equality in education to be addressed by them, the government, private sector, civil society and even international community. Each country prepared its own action plan to immediately implement with their own institutional resources. First, they have decided to organize the meeting of women's committee in teachers' union and discuss about what they have learned, then engage youth leaders to generate awareness about gender equality, several international gender rights instruments endorsed by their respective countries and obstacles in their implementation. Second, enlighten union members about the dignity of work and their rights including gender rights. Third, engage mass media to disseminate the issues of gender equality at the grassroots level. For this, they will engage local CBOs, NGOs, community-based groups, civil society, teachers, religious leaders and women's groups. Fourth, prepare advocacy and campaign documents and organize train-the-trainer program. And, finally, collect feedback for overseeing better impact of the programs. The EI believed that it will muster necessary resources, provide technical backstopping and offer linkages to like-minded agencies for cooperative action.

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