ASEAN WOMEN’S NETWORK: breathes anew

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Selected women teacher leaders from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand expressed their commitments for the ASEAN Women’s Network (AWN) to breathe again after years of dormancy. Considered as a social force in the region, AWN had played a number of significant roles on empowering teacher and women leaders under the auspices of the Canadian Teachers Federation (CTF) and Education International – Asia-Pacific (EIAP). However, when CTF is pressed of by the political situation in their country, AWN gradually became latent considerable years back. The all-women meeting that took place last March 26-28, 2015 is the boldest step in reviving the AWN by far.

Spearheaded by Shashi Bala Singh (EIAP Chief Coordinator) and Pathma Krishnan (EIAP Regional Coordinator), the meeting has put prominent teacher leaders in the region. Delegates include France Castro (ACT), Victoria Bellosillo (FFW), Milagros Ogalinda (SMP-NATOW), and Marvie Sagun (TOPPS), all from the Philippines; Dian Mahsunah and Fransiska Susilowati (PGRI-Indonesia); Vasanta Muthiah (NUTP-Malaysia); Datin Diana Tay (STU-Sarawak); Him Sokleang (NEAD) and Ouk Chhayavy (CITA) both from Cambodia; Saritsana Witoonchat (PSTAT-Thailand; and Faiqah Anuar (EI/Lararforbundet Gender Assistant).

Country reports were presented which had given opportunities to the delegates to map out plan for future collective action. The achievement gaps, issues and concerns in the region affecting women teachers had brought the leaders together for a common goal of sustaining AWN activities, with or without funding from a development partner. Lararforbundet (Swedish Teachers’ Union), which is extending assistance to some AWN efforts, has challenged the AWN leadership to have a firmer foundation of the organization’s existence through effective fiscal management and autonomy.

During the meeting, teacher leaders have identified the following problems and made these priorities for their development plan: lack of baseline data, under representation of women in decision making, non-identification of training needs for women leaders, lack of budget for gender equality programs, and lack of knowledge and courage to assume leadership roles. Accordingly, AWN should also have to identify strategies to attract younger women in trade unions, identify programs to strengthen women network in respective country, and make each woman taking national and global role in the trade union movement through relevant trainings to avoid vacuum in leadership.

Initially to address the revitalization of the network, putting the communication in a forward motion is of utmost importance. AWN newsletter publication and website re-launching shall be considered, alongside with the creation of e-group, facebook account, and other wired links available.