Tag Archives: Schools

  “Children studying at Baptist Primary School , Rowalla, Tonkolli” Photo by Concern Worldwide

Learning Brief 5 – Addressing School Related GBV

School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV) refers to violence inflicted on children in, around, or on their way to or from school, due to stereotypes based on their sex or gendered identity. It is a fundamental violation of human rights, particularly those of women and children. It is considerable barrier to participation in education, gender equity and to the achievement of Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals (see Learning Brief 5). Although various international programmes incorporate prevention and response strategies, more work must be done on best practice and to ensure that all SRGBV initiatives have a solid theoretical grounding. This Learning Brief is based on research shared at a SRGBV Learning Day in 2012. It is to be read in connection with Learning Brief 2: Effective Responses for Gender Based Violence: Gender Based Violence in Schools.

What is School Related Gender Based Violence?

Millions of children around the world experience fear or violence every time they go to school. This includes verbal, physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or symbolic violence and includes both bullying and cyber-bullying. SRGBV can include individual actions as well as harmful traditional practices or expectations based on gender that negatively impact children’s rights to education. It can occur between students, between students and teachers, between teachers, and within the family or community. Preventing and responding to SRGBV is critical to ensuring access to quality education for all and to the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

What role do schools have in the development of gender norms?

Boys and girls often learn that they are different from one another at school. These gender roles control who gets to speak, where they play, how their physical space is shared, or who cleans the classroom, etc. Classrooms are often gendered spaces, with boys and girls separated. This constant stereotyping allows environments to develop where more acute SRGBV can occur and be tolerated. However, such attitudes are learned behaviour, which means they can be changed. The role of education is crucial here, as schools are not just sources of socialisation but can also promote tolerance, non-violence, and gender equality, and be agents for changing social norms. A number of promising international interventions and programmes have shown that schools can change to become safer places.

What key learning points emerged?

  1. Broader views are better: Organisations that demonstrate promising practice believe that because gender is a socially constructed concept, change is possible.
  2. Success requires partnership: A broad range of state and civil organisations, stakeholders and the community must be involved.
  3. Monitoring & Evaluation: Comprehensive M&E and local capacity building is essential to improve SRGBV measuring. Best practice includes multiple data sources.
  4. Micro, meso, macro: Approaches that address individual, school, community and legislative levels maximise impact and sustainability.
  5. Advocacy and Communications. Plan International’s report A Girl’s Right to Learn Without Fear: Working to End Gender-Based Violence at School (http://plancanada.ca/publications) is valuable reference for advocacy initiatives. Raising public awareness is important, though it must be handled sensitively, as children who speak out can be vulnerable unless support structures are in place.
  6. Staff training and commitment. Agency staff and partner organisations must have relevant training. It should highlight key areas such as reporting procedures; and how to equip school staff with tools to help prevent, and respond to, SRGBV. Having ‘champions’ who can speak out and raise issues in schools is important.
  7. Participation, Voice and Representation. Girls and boys must be recognised within the school structures as key participants in any intervention. Establishing student clubs or committees has been successful, as have child-led media, lobbying and awareness raising activities, as well as training peer-to-peer child educators.
  8. Get the resources right. School spaces, especially toilet areas, need to be safe. Reporting mechanisms and staff codes of conduct must be established and respected. A child should never end up in a situation where there is only one designated person to report to, as that person may be the abuser. Examine the curriculum for gender norming and attitudes.
  9. Men and boys are part of the solution. Boys are also negatively affected by gender expectations, and vulnerable to violence. Interventions should change attitudes and behaviours that increase the risk of men and boys perpetuating SRGBV, and create partners in combating violence against girls and young women.

There are nine key learning points of huge benefit to organisations in the appropriate and successful planning, design and implementation of their SRGBV programmes.

Good practice is based on a solid theoretical grounding of gender and GBV. Though a lot of research has been done, more is required before we can arrive at the definitive framework for best practice.

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  “Children studying at Baptist Primary School , Rowalla, Tonkolli” Photo by Concern Worldwide

Learning Brief 2 – Effective responses to GBV in schools

Many countries have a high level of acceptance of violence against women and girls. Those experiencing it have little or no support or services available to them. In June 2009 we held an event called Gender Based Violence Learning Day: Effective Responses to GBV. This Learning Brief covers the increasingly important issue of GBV in schools, which was covered at the event. GBV in schools infringes on the rights of children as well seriously impacting on the development of equal goals for all children.

Why is GBV an issue for schools?

  • The experience or threat of GBV impacts on performance and attendance.
  • Schools are critical centres of learning, and important in how we learn about society and behavioural norms.
  • GBV in schools indicates a deeper gender inequality within society. Although it cannot be addressed solely by schools, education can play a key role.

How does gender impact on schools?

  • The ‘gender regime’: Schools have both formal and informal ways of interaction. A gender regime is evident in such routines. It controls who gets to speak, where boys and girls play, how physical space is shared, etc. Peer pressure ranging from teasing to violence, can become part of the school environment. Informal allocation of roles between parents can also create an implicit gender division.
  • What teachers teach: Teachers and pupils interact in gendered ways in relation to school discipline and authority as well as in the classroom itself. Transactional sex for ‘good exam results’ can also be a problem, as can that of impunity for teachers guilty of GBV. These issues must be tackled within educational institutions as well as teacher training colleges.

What can be done at community level?

  • A community’s negative attitude to gender equality is often replicated in schools.
  • People can find it difficult to challenge teachers. Communities must be encouraged to use their collective power to question education.
  • There is a growing international emphasis on promoting community involvement in how schools are run.

What can be done at school level?

  • Where institutions exist, so does the risk of abuse. To begin combatting GBV in schools, the first objective must be to analyse the existing dynamics.
  • It is essential to establish systems that safeguard children, such as codes of behaviour for teachers and safety training and awareness for pupils.
  • Tackle the school community as a whole to strengthen equality by: finding the points where gender equality can be promoted; clarifying your audience; and deciding how best to focus on that group.

No single group or person can make this change happen. It’s important to work with the education system at policy level, the community, school management and staff, and with the pupils themselves.

People can be resistant to change. But protection of children is vital and the desire to make this happen should underpin all activity.

Long-term change requires long-term commitment. But with everyone’s support, GBV can be tackled.

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