#8March: Takeaways from EI World Women’s Conference

Attending the 2018 3rd Education International World Women’s Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, was not only my first time outside of the United States, but also my first time at an Education International event. Truth be told, I had only just heard of Education International at last summer’s National Education Association Representative Assembly (annual meeting) that occurred in Boston. While I am addressing my truths, I will say that I also never thought of the education union as a global concept. That worldview has all been changed by this experience. Attending this Education International event in Morocco was amazing, to say the least. My anticipation built up the whole way during travel, and just continued to grow as I wondered whether I would fit in, whether I would make an impact, and overall, whether would I learn something and make meaningful connections.

Making connections was the first thing I saw a lot of once the women’s conference started. Many people from different backgrounds, from many nations, embraced in hugs, and these were long embraces. It reminded me of attending my union’s national meetings and how we connect between states, except this was different, very different. I immediately noticed that not only were the connections between participants from different education unions and nations, but the participants spoke so joyfully in different languages. I felt I must have been living in a bubble; I had never heard of some of these languages! I consider myself fortunate to have been with an NEA staff member who was able to help me communicate, and who helped me make connections with many young leaders from other unions and countries. I felt good that I was able to check that off my list: making connections. Sharing stories of how education policies are handled in my country in comparison to theirs, reviewing the sessions we all attended and exchanging thoughts.

 

Education International provided many opportunities for networking and exchanging thoughts on

topics; the way the sessions were set up welcomed interactions from all participants. One of my most memorable sessions was titled “Moving from a Single Leadership Model to a Collaborative Leadership Model”. I went into this session with a mindset of “I know which one I agree with.”

 

Through the facilitated debate, my heart was softened and I was able to see positives from each

side. I later shared my views with some of the women I had met and I gained deeper insight into each leadership model. I thought to myself: “This is why I am here; I am not only growing through the chosen sessions, but the education leaders I am meeting are continuing to help me grow”.

 

Another conference session I attended made me anxious in advance in both a good and bad

way; it was called “Voice & Public Speaking”. Knowing myself, I knew that this was a challenging area for me, but I intensely focused on the concepts that were addressed, and I also took great value from the session’s individual/group assignment. It was an important opportunity for me to prepare a speech, to receive immediate feedback on that speech. I also heard my partner’s speech and provided feedback to her. My partner, Ayanda Khatshiwe, from the South African Democratic Teachers Union in South Africa, and I left this session feeling refreshed and hopeful for future opportunities for public speaking as future educational leaders in our respective unions.

 

The kind of experience I had at the 3rd EI World Women Conference is something that I pray continues. I hope that others got just as much out of the conference as I did. I would never have imagined that I could have connections and friends in various places around this world; women who are all fighting for the same rights and equality in education. It was said during the EI conference that ‘the whole idea of unions is to bring about change together’. My biggest take away is that in making the change that we so desperately need, we cannot do so on our own. It is going to take networking: locally, nationally, and globally. I am fortunate that I was able to attend this EI 3rd World Women Conference. Now with everyone armed with information and resources, it is time to share and implement.

 


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Shaniqua Williams

Shaniqua Williams was born in the Bronx, New York, but currently resides in Stephens City, Virginia. Ms Williams graduated from Hampton University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Leadership Education. She is a School Counselor in Northwestern Virginia, and President of her local union. She is the proud owner of two Bichon Frise dogs named Pooh and Tigger.

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