23.11.2006 -

School related gender-based violence in the context of education for all: Role and Responsibility of stakeholders

Roundtable organzied on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. With the participation of: Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, Michel Doucin, Ambassador for Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, France, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Independent expert for the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children.

Roundtable, organized by the Division of Basic Education of the Education Sector and the Section for Women and Gender Equality of the Bureau of Strategic Planning of UNESCO, the French National Commission for UNESCO and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Of the more than 100 million children still not enrolled in primary school worldwide, 55% are girls . Beyond the issue of parity, and thus the issue of access to schooling, girls and women face many inequalities, both within schools and in society more generally.

Girls’ education confronts many obstacles to the triptych of access, retention and success. Typically, these obstacles stem from family, cultural, social, educational, legal or political contexts and continue to loom as a serious threat to achieving the goals of Education for All. Among them, school related gender-based violence, whose educational and psychological consequences are extremely severe, seems to develop under the very taboo that envelops it.

Indeed, as the Secretary-General's in-depth Study on Violence against Women states, despite a growing mobilization of public actors, this kind of violence persists in all countries and represents a generalized violation of human rights and a major obstacle to the achievement of gender equality. This study highlights the problems of sexual harassment and violence towards girls and women that persist within societies and educational settings. School related gender-based violence is also discussed in the report conducted by Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, independent expert in charge of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children . This report sheds light on the phenomenon of gender-based violence, including sexual violence, and formulates recommendations, notably to States, to combat this phenomenon. The report notes that States should promote and protect the human rights of women and girls and address all forms of gender discrimination as part of a comprehensive violence-prevention strategy.

The extent of the phenomenon described in these two reports places the capacity of the international community at risk to meet its commitments adopted through the Education for All Goals and the Millennium Development Goals, which aim, in particular, at ensuring universal primary education as well as promoting gender equality and empowering women.

Thus, since 2005, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated a dialogue around the issue of school related gender-based violence in developing countries, where the problem is particularly alarming, and published a study on this topic. This publication was the subject of discussion with UNESCO and other actors of international cooperation and was an occasion for the exchange of experiences on the problem and more generally on gender equality in the education sector.

In this context, and on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a roundtable on school related gender-based violence in the context of Education for All (EFA) will take place at UNESCO on the 23rd November 2006. It will focus primarily on the role and responsibility of various stakeholders. Indeed, gender-based violence in schools reflects violence that exists more broadly in societies, and entails on a collective social responsibility. An analysis of the problem of school related gender-based violence inevitably leads to the consideration of all stakeholders involved (national and local authorities, civil society and NGOs, educational personnel, parents and children) at all levels to assess the state of this violence, past and present interventions against it and to exchange perspectives for planning future actions.

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro will open the roundtable by presenting the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children to enrich the debate.

Objectives of the roundtable:

  • Raising awareness among the stakeholders of international cooperation on the theme of school related gender-based violence and on gender equality in the education sector in general.
  • Identifying the role and the responsibility of the three main categories of stakeholders facing gender-based violence in schools, considering their expertise and testimony:
    • national and local public authorities;
    • civil society and NGOs;
    • teachers, educational personnel and teachers’ organizations.
  • Identifying good practices and conditions for sharing and scaling up good practices.
  • Identify the way forward for addressing school related gender-based violence.

The roundtable will be organized around the presentations by representatives of the three categories of stakeholders mentioned above; each intervention will be followed by a debate with the participants. The role and responsibility of parents and children will also be at the heart of the debates and illustrated through various experiences.

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