International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: Impact of COVID-19 and digitalisation


This year, the world theme of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is ‘Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!’. On the occasion, the UN launches the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign. Education trade unions across the world are sharing their experiences in a series of regional blogs on the role of teachers and trade unions in responding to the emerging challenges when addressing gender-based violence at schools.

Despite being a profoundly spread human rights violation, gender-based violence and harassment against women often remain unnoticed, underestimated and underreported. ETUCE has a long-standing commitment to combating gender-based violence in education and the teaching profession and firmly advocates to end the reiteration of the vicious circle which continues putting women at risk at their workplace and their home.

Nevertheless, the urgency to combat gender-based violence is pushed down among priorities due to new economic and social challenges that are threatening the safety of teaching and learning environments. The recently published Gender Equality Index 2020 reveals that the digital transformation is allowing for the emergence of new types of gender-based violence, such as online harassment and cyber-violence. The data shows that 1 out of 4 women have been victims of online harassment in the last year in Europe. As digital teaching and learning are expanding, especially in the current context of the COVID-19 crisis, teachers are increasingly exposed to  threats of violence from students, parents or others while having to also deal with incidents of gender-based violence among students.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a setback on the safety of learning environments. During the lockdown, a peak of domestic violence against women has been recorded. The recent European Parliament study  on Tackling violence against women and domestic violence in Europe shows that, in the last months, the increase in number of calls to helplines providing services for victims of domestic violence varied from 25% in Ireland, 30% in Germany and 50% in Belgium, to 233% in Romania and 694% in Finland. 

Commenting on this data, Susan Flocken, European Director says “ETUCE has been continuously working for safe learning environments. With this alarming data, we urge countries to ratify the ILO Convention 190 on violence and harassment in the world of work. We advocate for national legislation that improves the guarantee for a safe education environment. We expect education trade unions to be adequately involved  to tackling and preventing gender-based violence in education.”

Education trade unions play an important role in addressing the growing issue of gender-based violence and cyber-bullying. Among the ETUCE activities supporting member organisations on this issue, in 2020, ETUCE adopted a new Action Plan on Gender Equality which provides concrete tools and practices to address the challenges of gender inequalities. On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, ETUCE member organisations actively mobilise against gender-based violence with events, campaigns, demonstrations, publications and debates with political authorities.