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Promoting Equity at Home and Internationally (From the General Secretary)

Victoria Réaume

ETFO is committed to working toward a more just and equitable society. We have a specific commitment to support women’s participation and leadership in the union. This is constitutionally mandated; ETFO’s constitution guarantees positions for women on the Executive and funding for women’s programs.

ETFO also provides equity programs in the context of our constitutional priority “to promote social justice in the areas of peace, anti-poverty, non-violence and equity.”

Our programs for members, particularly women, indigenous and racialized members, members with disabilities, and LGBTQ members, our resources for classrooms and our work in the community are fundamental to who we are as an organization.

ETFO is renowned for this equity work. It goes beyond our walls to impact the schools we teach in every day and our broader community. Internationally, we support organizations such as the Ghana National Association of Teachers, the Sierra Leone Teachers Union, the Fundación Ratón de Biblioteca, the All India Primary Teachers Federation, and the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation (among others) to provide educational and other opportunities for women and girls.

Every year we re-examine the needs of our members and the ways in which we can strengthen the participation and leadership of women and members of designated groups. New this year is the Collective Bargaining Mentoring Program, a pilot designed to enable a small number of women members to work with provincial collective bargaining executive staff mentors to develop knowledge and leadership skills, specifically in CB services. In addition, we have developed the Mentoring and Coaching Institute, an intensive, three-year mentoring and coaching program, and a bi-annual program titled From Charity to Justice, which facilitates a shift from thinking about community work in terms of charity work to thinking about it as activism for justice. A group of women members are currently working with staff and outside “femtors” to develop resources that speak to feminist Promoting Equity at Home and Internationally issues under the umbrella of the Women’s Equality Project.

Over the past couple of years, ETFO has been working hard to develop opportunities for First Nations, Métis and Inuit members and resources on First Nations, Métis and Inuit education. We are currently running workshops in several locals developed by women for women on engaging Aboriginal families and communities. We had a leadership symposium for First Nation, Métis and Inuit women members in April, and plan to release a poster entitled “Twenty one Inspirational First Nations, Métis and Inuit Women” in June. We have also created an online networking site for racialized and First Nation, Métis and Inuit women members. These are just a few of the programs and resources being developed for members that recognize the systemic and historic injustices and discrimination experienced by racialized and First Nations, Métis and Inuit women. Their intention is to create understanding and to spark conversations about next steps.

As I complete my term as ETFO’s first woman general secretary, and especially because of the women’s focus of this issue of Voice, I wish to share how proud I am of the evolution and progress of ETFO’s programs and resources to reflect the Executive’s equity vision, and to commend the staff who have worked so creatively to make this vision a reality in our new programs. I wish to thank the Executive, local leaders and members for the amazing opportunity to serve this great Federation.

In this, my final column, I wish to congratulate ETFO’s incoming General Secretary, Sharon O’Halloran. Sharon taught with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and served as President of the Hamilton Women Teachers’ Association from 1991 to 1994 after serving on the local executive. In 1998, Sharon joined ETFO Provincial Office as a member of the executive staff, serving in Professional Relations, Collective Bargaining and Equity and Women’s Services. In 2013, Sharon was appointed Deputy General Secretary responsible for these service areas, as well as many other integral ETFO functions.

Sharon is an accomplished leader, committed to the work of the Federation and to advocating on behalf of public elementary teachers and education workers for a stronger publicly funded education system.

- Victoria Réaume