Advocating for gender rights, social justice and public education
As the President of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) Heather Smith points out in her message in this issue of Perspectives, we are living in a time where the progress towards more equitable, inclusive and just societies is under attack. This is true for many groups in society, and certainly for women.
The historic marches that mobilized women around the world on January 21 were described as “the upside to the downside”, by Gloria Steinem who took to the stage in Washington that day. We need to continue that upward trend through continued actions. Our collective march as women and men who care about women and girls was advocacy in its purest form: a resounding call for respect, equity and social justice, and a firm “no” to the misogyny, fear, hatred and division spewed by the Trump administration in the United States of America.
Could the erosion of progress towards a more democratic and just society that is occurring south of our border happen in Canada? Yes, it could. Can we do something about it? Yes, we can. In fact, CTF, each of our Member organizations, and teachers in each province and territory make strides towards creating a more just society every day. Now, however, is time to redouble our efforts. We cannot rest on our laurels.
Support for a strong publicly funded public education system is more critical than ever before. We need to be steadfast in our work across the country to protect, promote, and strengthen our provincial and territorial education systems. Quality education is a human right. It should not be privatized. The theme of this year’s CTF Canadian Forum on Public Education is “Students before Profit”. And we invite you to join us July 10–11 in Ottawa to participate in sessions designed to raise awareness regarding the pitfalls of privatization and ways to strengthen our education systems. Visit our website where you will find information soon.
And from a quality inclusive public education, much good has and can continue to flow. In classrooms infused with social justice, a feminist perspective can also flourish. Boys and girls, young men and women, learn a great deal about the world around them in classrooms and schools. Let us continue to ensure what they are learning is rooted in principles of social justice. CTF has programs and resources to assist teachers in this important work. I encourage you to look into Imagineaction and Speak Truth to Power Canada for classroom supports and to find out more about Project Overseas if engagement in teacher development and social justice overseas is of interest.
I also invite you to support our advocacy efforts. CTF will continue to be a strong advocate nationally and internationally for women’s rights and social justice writ large. Globally and here in Canada, the teaching profession is a female-dominated profession. In Canada, it is an example of a profession where wage parity on the basis of gender is not an issue. While we celebrate that, we must remember that tens of thousands of other women in Canada do not yet receive equal pay for work of equal value. Let’s add our voices to the chorus of support for all of our sisters who are denied this human right.
At the federal level, CTF continues to work on the following issues:
- Increasing support for teacher and student mental wellness
- Putting an end to child poverty
- Increasing support for women living in poverty, including access to quality child care (see end of article)
- Ensuring girls access to free public education here and around the world
- Ending human trafficking (see end of article)
- Stopping violence against women and girls, both internationally and nationally
- Preventing violence against teachers (see end of article)
- Promoting work-life balance
Won’t you join us in this work in your schools, communities, and provincial/territorial teacher organizations? Following are a few suggestions for how you can advocate in your own community:
- When you hear a racist or sexist joke, address it. Call it out;
- Become active in your teacher organization as a delegate, serve on committees or even run for office;
- Join the CTF Imagineaction program and work with your students to launch a social justice project supporting equality;
- Join Equal Voice: Be her. Celebrate her. Support her. When more women are elected to office, the better policies and perspectives reflect gender issues;
- Explore the Pédagogie à l’école de langue française (PELF) which strives to support a societal project for our francophone minority;
- As a teacher, work with your students to help them develop critical thinking skills when exposed to sexist and racist media in video games, to news reports of elected officials making inappropriate comments, and to hypersexualized ads and movies.
In closing, I wish a very happy retirement to Bob McGahey, Director of Advocacy and Labour Rights, who has led CTF’s advocacy for a few years and stood shoulder to shoulder with many of us standing up for social justice, for the teaching profession and for quality public education. We are sincerely grateful to Bob for his many contributions to CTF over the years and we will miss him (and his ginger cookies)!