At the start of this year I attended a two-day Women’s Development course with the National Education Union, celebrating the journey of women in history, with a particular focus on education. The themes included: ‘Celebrating the journey’, ‘Women at work and in society’, ‘Women’s rights at work’, ‘Tackling sexism and sexual harassment’, as well as enhancing our awareness and understanding of the work the NEU is doing to promote women’s rights. The most important part for me was networking with and learning from inspirational educators and leaders, and sharing our experiences as a network of women working to create safer and more inclusive spaces for all.
We started with activities focussing on the history and journey of women in society and the NEU over the last 150 years. The first activity allowed us to see the changing nature and the improvement of women’s rights in the UK. Examples included: the women who protested for the equal right to vote, the women from Dagenham who protested against unequal pay, a protest which directly led to the passing of the Equal Pay Act, Diane Abbott, the first Black woman member of Parliament, and Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. The activity also highlighted the endless work being carried out by women members of the NEU, in order to ensure there is more equal representation at the top. For example, the Women United roundtable held in 2003 at a Union meeting, where 97 women NUT members attended. It is clear the NEU is constantly doing more to ensure women teachers of all backgrounds are correctly represented.
We then moved on to discussing and learning about whether we really have equality in society today, and as we knew, there isn’t 100% equality present, however women are in a much better position today – and that is definitely worth celebrating! This activity was by far one of the most important ones of the training event, as it highlighted the fact that there is still a long way to go, in order to achieve full equality for all. We discussed the notion behind why 9th November 2015 was called the ‘Women’s No Pay Day’ – it signified the fact that when the gender pay gap is applied, women start to work for free while men get paid year-round. Another important take-away from this activity was that ‘Childcare’ is the poorest paying sector for apprenticeships, which generally attracts more women than men, compared to Construction and Engineering.
Throughout the course we also discussed barriers to girl’s education and how we could do more to tackle this.
The course allowed everyone to share any experiences of discrimination or judgement they had experienced or heard of. Allowing us to discuss policies implemented by the NEU to protect all women’s rights, such as a model menopause policy. An important part of the course was learning about the extent of Sexism in education, by learning about the research carried out by the NEU and UK Feminista. We were provided with a very informative yet easy-to-understand report on the different types of sexism experienced by students and teachers in UK schools, how this is reported, and what we can do to notice and eradicate this.
We were also provided with the latest NEU newsletter for Black North West NEU members, which included a detailed overview of the NEU Black Educator’s Annual Conference in 2019.
We were given time to discuss our plans to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, all of which I will be including in my next blog post. It was enlightening to see the NEU views the rights of all of its members as equally important and worthy of being celebrated.
I came away feeling motivated, educated and ready to be a part of the campaign to improve all women’s rights in society and the education sector, especially because women make up the majority of the teaching workforce.
I’m glad I attended this course, as it allowed me to learn about the important work being carried out by the Union to champion the rights of women from all backgrounds, regardless of age, race and religion. It was empowering to be part of a group of women determined to break barriers and create more safer and inclusive spaces for all.