Education Trade Unions Leading the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence and Harassment


On November 25th, we draw attention to one of the most prevalent human rights violations: violence against women, affecting one in three women worldwide.

Susan Flocken, European Director of ETUCE, emphasizes the pivotal role of education in nurturing citizens who embody respect and tolerance for each other's rights. She underscores the significance of investing in education as a means to foster a society without gender-based violence and harassment, aligning with the global theme of this year's 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence: "UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls." Susan adds, "Education is the cornerstone for building a society that rejects gender-based violence, and our investment in it shapes the future we want to create."

Celebrating the International Day against Violence Against Women, ETUCE underscores that it is through collective bargaining that education trade unions can effectively draw attention to the changing dynamics of sexual harassment and gender-based violence. This is particularly crucial in adapting to the shifts brought about by changing working conditions, such as the surge in domestic and cyber violence associated with the growing trend of teleworking. According to the ETUC’s latest survey implemented in the project ‘Tackling Violence and Harassment against Women at Work” education trade unions have only recently begun to address these concerns, recognizing, and starting to prioritise them. This survey has also shown the significant effort that education trade unions have devoted to information and awareness-raising activities, as means of countering gender-based violence. Even though, collective bargaining is still a limited tool in addressing gender-based violence in education, some education trade unions succeeded to criminalize violence against teachers (e.g. the Bulgarian Union of Teachers) or working together with the public sector confederations, secure the paid leave for victims of violence in the collective agreement or obtain funds from the national health and safety institute for training health and safety representatives, with a portion dedicated to gender-based violence and harassment (e.g., UIL in Italy). The final conference of this ETUC project takes place in Brussels on 14-15 December 2023 and will produce guidelines for trade unions on addressing gender-based violence at the workplace.  

The International Day against Violence Against Women is widely celebrated around the world among education trade unions. EI has released a video with all members of the Status of Women Committee, calling for the end of violence against women. At the same time, the role of education in ending gender-based violence is highlighted in their latest article. Joining the UN’s 16 days of activism preventing violence against women and girls (25 November- 10 December), EI is releasing a social media campaign. In the European region, education trade unions are also organising and campaigning around this crucial topic. In Spain, a noteworthy campaign is unfolding led by FECCOO (La Federación de Enseñanza de Comisiones Obreras) called the #25N campaign. This initiative aims to spread messages advocating for the elimination of gender-based violence. Through powerful messages such as "¡No te calles!" (Don't stay silent!), they endeavour to raise awareness about gender-based violence and encourage women to openly discuss the issue.

Seeking further change, UIL in Italy released a social campaign strongly supported by the UIL-Scuola, challenging the normalisation of gender-based violence, an enduring and widespread issue.

In France, a united collective, including education trade unions joining the FSU federation, will mobilise for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, demanding action, resources, and combatting sexist and sexual violence. Initiatives and marches are planned nationwide, including a demonstration in Paris.

European institutions are also actively prioritising the issue of violence against women, with ongoing negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU on the European Directive on Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.

Discussions involve critical elements such as the potential inclusion of rape as an EU-level crime.