» On International Women’s Day, a focus on gender-based violence in school
08.03.2017 - Education Sector

On International Women’s Day, a focus on gender-based violence in school

© M.W Ruddock

Every year, an estimated 246 million children are subject to some form of gender-based violence – mistreatment, bullying, psychological abuse and sexual harassment in or on the way to school. Agenda 2030 places gender equality and inclusive and equitable quality education at the heart of its concerns, and addresses violence against girls and boys as a cross-cutting concern. It also includes concrete commitments particularly under Target 4.a with the provision of gender-sensitive education facilities, and safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.

Understanding gender inequality and gender norms, and their role in driving many acts of violence, is a critical step to breaking down cycles of violence. Bringing a gender lens to the analysis of data on school violence, and to the implementation of prevention and response measures, is a major first step in understanding the root causes of violence, identifying  those who are most at risk and ways of protecting those learners.

Girls are particularly vulnerable

School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is defined as threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence occurring in and around schools, perpetrated as a result of gender norms and stereotypes, and enforced by unequal power dynamics. It is a violation of children’s fundamental human rights and is a form of gender discrimination. While SRGBV affects all children, girls are particularly vulnerable.

  • SRGBV is associated with the loss of 1 primary grade of schooling, translating to a yearly cost of around $17 billion to low and middle income countries
  • In Uganda, 78% of primary and 82% of secondary school students reported having experienced sexual abuse at school 67% perpetrated by male teachers. Fear for girls’ safety in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea have led parents to withdraw girls from school
  • Girls are more likely to experience psychological bullying, cyber0bullying, sexual violence and harassment. Boys, often face higher rates of corporal punishment and physical violence.

New Global Guidance published by UNESCO and UN Women to address SRGBV recommends a holistic set of strategies to support countries wishing to achieve their ambitious goals on education for all and gender equality. These include recommendations for strengthening monitoring systems to collect reliable data, improved indicators to track progress and formative research methods that give contextual data on the scale and experience of violence. The Guidance also notes the particular ethical and safety considerations for measuring SRGBV, focussing on the ethical issues of working with children and young people on sensitive issues of violence and the deeply entrenched norms around gender and sexuality.

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