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News

SLTU is represented at a Young Women's Training Workshop in Dominica

Date: Tuesday Mar 08, 2011

Stephanie Laurencin and Vern Charles represented the St. Lucia Teachers' Union at a Young Women's Training Workshop held from 23rd – 25th November, 2010 at the Garraway Hotel in Roseau, Commonwealth of Dominica. This workshop was presented by Education International, Caribbean Union of Teachers, Dominica Association of Teachers.
 
The main objective of this workshop was to empower young women teachers in the Caribbean region with the necessary skills and knowledge needed to become effective leaders in their organisations.
To achieve this main objective, a three day workshop was executed, providing a wide range of content material, experiences and activities all geared towards developing effective young women leaders.
On November 23, 2010 the participants were welcomed at an opening ceremony which saw addresses from the co-ordinators of the workshop and ministers from the ministries of Gender Affairs and Education. This lead right into a Panel discussion “ Putting Gender on the Agenda” where the panellists looked at a global, regional and local perspective on gender issues.
  • Panel Discussion: Putting Women on the Agenda                                          
  • Panellists: Mrs. Alix Boyd- Knights, Mrs Josephine Dublin-Prince, Mrs Virginia Albert Poyotte                                                                                                                                                  
Mrs. Alix Boyd-Knights, the speaker of the Dominica House of Assembly, presented a global perspective of where women are at presently. She is of the belief that men hold up half of the sky and that women are needed to hold up the other half. Though acknowledging that the gender gap is closing, there are still many barriers which hold women back, especially in the field of politics. The Commonwealth Women’s Parliament, in trying to attract more women into politics through mentoring, motivating and mobilising are faced with the challenge that many women are not ready to do so. Women were also asked to take note of the “Envy Syndrome” which tends to affect many women and is underpinned with the thinking, “it should have been me”. She emphasised that once it is one of the sisters then it is “us” and discouraged women from being envious of others.
It was also stated that some women groups and organisations may be non-functioning due to lack of resources from the organisations from which they eminate. This stems back to the realisation that men are the head of most of those organisations and may not be forthcoming with the dissemination of such funds for gender based activities.
Mrs. Josephine Dublin Prince from the Dominica National Council of Women, the second panellist begun with a historical perspective which allowed participants to put into context where women were at and the extent to which they have evolved in a “male dominated Caribbean society”. The high point of women change in the Caribbean was in the 1970’s – 80’s and this was largely due to great mobilisation for change of policy and women advancement.
Mrs. Virginia Albert Poyotte from Education International  focused on EI and its role in the development of women. An EI conference in Zimbabwe in 1995 rectified a resolution for gender equality. From henceforth, all unions were encouraged to put gender on the agenda. Women are socialised and nurtured into their roles in society and women teachers pass on this socialisation to the students. It is pivotal therefore that the teacher’s thinking change so that they can transmit a more positive message to this present generation. It was observed that although the majority of teachers in the Caribbean are women, the executive of those unions does not reflect this fact. A special call was made for all unions to ensure that they have a gender policy if they have not done so. Thanks to the creation of the Status of Women’s Committee in the CUT in 1999 there has been a significant amount of development of women teachers.
  • Role of Women Leaders in Teacher Organisations
  • Presenter : Mrs. Vernest Mack                                                                                                       
The role of Women Leaders in Teacher Organisations was the highlight of Mrs. Vernest Mark’s, president of the Antigua Teachers’ Union, presentation. This presenter focused immensely on the importance of knowledge as women take up their roles as leaders. Knowledge of laws, acts, constitutions, past and current events in the organisation and other related information are all important tools needed for effective leadership. Inclusive of this as well is a sound knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the organisations in which women teachers work.
An effective leader must also be a good listener, have good oral and written skills, must be open to criticism, assertive, proactive, a team player and must be a visionary. The display of qualities which contrast those needed, such as procrastination, impatience, poor time management practices, ignorance of pertinent information and any other negative attribute which may lead to conflict should be discouraged. As leaders we must learn to make suggestions in a tactful manner, develop effective communication skills, make every teacher in the organisation feel that they belong, maintain our standards, excite emotion, motivate change, share what we know and learn, for we are only as strong as our weakest link.
Women must know the purpose of teacher organisations and this should foster unity as it promotes greater association with each other and coalitions. Women leaders in the union, must be non political, for they represent the interest of all teachers regardless of political affiliation. Women leaders must also aim to empower their members especially by sharing whatever is learnt, for when we push someone to get to the top, we get that much closer to the top ourselves.
  • Education International survey on Women                                                                                                                       Presenter : Mrs. Virginia Albert-Poyotte
This was a highly interactive, fact finding activity. Participants provided requested information on their unions and more specifically the status of women committees in their unions. This saw the sharing of information which highlighted similarities and differences between the union operations and its suitability in each instance.   Two such similarities were that all the islands had some form of women representation in their respective unions and secondly they all seem to offer some form of training in their various regions.
An analysis of the various unions and women presidents of such unions revealed that 9 Caribbean territories presently have female presidents. Many of the unions however have a high percentage of male executive officers, compared to females. The argument therefore stems that if approximately 80% of the teachers are female and are therefore contributing to the union, why aren’t more women on the executive?
 
  • Strategies for Strengthening Women’s Capacity through the Women’s Committee          
  • Presenter- Mrs. Virginia Albert Poyotte
Each union must first identify whether there is a need for a Women’s Committee and used the model of EFAIDS to drive home her points. She identified the five working areas of EFAID which include, research, publicity, advocacy, training and policy development.
A similar approach is looked at with women committees in the unions. Workshops are pivotal in assisting in this cause as they equip women with many of what they need to become leaders in the union. Women must also be encouraged to take up leadership roles in their schools and unions. They must link up with gender based organisations to infiltrate schools. The following ideas were also suggested by participants:
use of the study Circle, Conferences, establishing branches for women's committees, having branch representatives, for women's committees, use of the media especially radio shows. 
This was followed by a role play of a radio show programme of which Stephanie Laurencin played the role of host.
Suggestions for strengthening and getting greater productivity or effectiveness from the Status of Women’s Committees of the various unions centred largely on communication. This included the use of Facebook, Skype websites, updated reporting and reporting timelines for member of SOCW committee and the twinning of units.
  • Project Proposal                                                                                                                                           
  • Presenter: Mrs. Judith Spencer- Jarrett
Every Organisation must know what resources it has and which ones it needs. It cannot provide all it needs and will therefore have to find a means of getting the resources that it needs. That organisation must first list its priorities and then set out a means by which to achieve specific goals including the acquisition of resources. Use of a project proposal is extremely useful in such an instance. However any project proposal presented must be properly done. The steps were outlined and though through lack of time groups were unable to complete an entire proposal, the practical experience gained from attempting part of it was commendable.
  • Techniques in planning and Implementing Training workshops
Presenters: Ms Marylene Albert & Mrs. Virginia Albert-Poyotte
Training workshops are the main means by which organisation disseminate information and skills to its members so as to lead to greater efficiency. Ms Albert delivered her presentation on the backdrop of her experiences whilst working with EI and organising workshops. Her method was a systematic one where by she focused on the following steps: i) examining the problem, ii) determining the needs from the research done, iii) setting the workshop goals, iv) Identifying the source of funding and v) developing an action plan. These are all skills which will be required by any leader in an organisation as they embark on workshops.
  • Parliamentary procedures in Conducting meetings                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
  • Presenter: Mrs. Judith Spencer Jarrett
Formal procedures are expected in organisations as they maintain order and ensure the smooth running of meetings. Mrs. Spencer highlighted the proper use of what is learnt when it comes to parliamentary procedures. She introduced and explained the different types of motions and the advantages and disadvantages of the use of motions. Through practical exercises, the grouping was taught how to propose a motion, steps in making a main motion and in amending a motion. It was noted that the term “I beg” should never be used when proposing a motion.
  • Time Management
  • Presenter: Mrs. Celia Nicholas
The importance of time and its utilisation is pivotal in running an organisation. “Time is related to your level of productivity” were the words sounded by Mrs. Nicholas. It was stated that in the Caribbean, there is a disrespectful attitude towards time. This would of course lead to a lower level of productivity. The extent of what is given out it depends on time. Time is a commodity and must be used wisely. Adjusting time can make a difference. It was encouraged that we always give ourselves benchmarks so as to keep to time and should always pre-empt situations so that we do not end up in situations where we waste time.
 
  •  Role of CUT – Status of Women’s Committee in linking the Units
  • Presenter: Mrs Judith Spencer-Jarrett
 In this discussion, a briefing was provided on the persons responsible for various
Women’s Committees in the Caribbean. Suggestions were given on ways to improve communications
amongst members e.g. the use of the computer via Skype and Face Book.  It was also suggested that the
use of personal websites should be set up. Also, that a time line for reports should be given from Status  
of Women’s Committee Conference, Social interaction between biennial conferences, twinning of units,
have quarterly meetings nationally, use of text messages. One recommendation made was for  
participants to do a similar workshop in their country.
 
Mrs Joan Provost who is an attorney at law deliberated on the topic “Human Rights and Women’s
Rights”. In this topic, she provided some brief information on the origin of human rights. The United
Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) is considered as the Bible of Human Rights and it consists
of laws concerning global rights of men and women which speak of the rights of freedom and rights of
self determination.
A SWOT Analysis of the Status of Women’s Committee was done under the supervision of Mrs Virginia
Poyotte-Albert. Participants were placed in four groups where each group deliberated on the Strengths,
Weaknesses, Opportunities and Treats. This was done in a circular motion. Group presenters
 presented on each topic. Some of the thoughts shared on each topic are as follows:
Strengths: Participants get to interact with fellow colleagues from other parts of the Caribbean
Weaknesses: Information gained by participants on the executive is not tunnelled down to the general
body.
Opportunities: More persons can gain knowledge on various topics that are affecting women.
Threats: Insufficient meetings can cause the committee to fail.
 
The topic “Financial Management” was facilitated by Mrs. Verlie Shaw-Joseph and Associate.   This team provided information on sensible saving tips which women can take into consideration to better themselves in the future.
Ms Gloria Augustus who is a magistrate in the Children’s Court deliberated on the Topic “The Rights of the Child”. This topic was integral since females make up eighty per cent of the teaching profession and work directly with children. It was pertinent to know and discuss of the “Rights of the Child”. A document entitled “Convention on the Rights of the Child”- adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20th November 1989 was reviewed and discussed. This document comprised of fifty-four articles. Ms Augustus also shared some of her experiences dealing with children and parents under her jurisdiction.
The following is an unofficial summary of main provisions of the States parties to the present Convention;
The preamble recalls the basic principles of the United Nations and specific provisions of certain relevant human rights treaties and proclamations. It reaffirms the fact that children, because of their vulnerability, need special care and protection, and it places special emphasis on the primary caring and protective responsibility of the family. It also reaffirms the need for legal and other protection of the child before and after birth, the importance of respect for the cultural values of the child’s community, and the vital role of international cooperation in securing children’s rights.
Mrs Virginia Albert- Poyotte facilitated the Action Plan on the Status of Women’s Committee. She posed the question “What is most important in your Union? Some of the responses echoed by participants were better time management, strategies for strengthening/empowering women and the role of women in the Union.
To conclude, a summary and evaluation of the workshop was done. Participants stated ways in which they benefited from the workshop.   After, certificates were presented to all participants.
Recommendations
This workshop was truly educational and an eye opener for both participants. From the intense three day proceedings the following recommendations are made to the Union.
  1. The establishment of a working Status of Women’s Committee.
  2. The participation of women teacher representatives, island wide, in the process of establishing this committee.
  3. Workshops to educate women teachers on issues which affect them in and out of the classroom.
  4.  Greater collaboration with other gender-based agencies so as to develop our women resources.

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