#16Days – Linking Communities and Governments to End SRGBV. The Role of the CSO
- CSOs provide a link between policy developers and community actions
- With a collaborative blend of programmes, advocacy and research, organizations such as Plan International are able to achieve transformative change in the lived realities of girls
- SRGBV requires a unified approach by all levels and sectors.
To end school related gender based violence (SRGBV), it undoubtedly requires a comprehensive, coordinated and multi-sectoral approach. Whether a government official, a school board trustee, a funding agency, a UN representative, a teacher, a parent or a student, we are all implicated in the need to ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality education that is safe and violence-free.
In today’s development sector, the role of civil society organizations has become increasingly important. While governments are making critical progress with legislative and policy change and communities are shifting gender and social norms, it is the role of CSOs such as Plan International, to be the convenor between these partners. It is the civil society, including non-profit organizations, which is consistenfly using multi-faceted approaches including research, programming and advocacy to ensure that realities of the challenges facing girls and boys are forming the foundation of our development work. Particularly in the past few years, there has been a dramatic rise in what can be referred to as a ‘girls’ movement’. With Plan International’s Because I am a Girl campaign at the forefront of this movement, there has been a collaborative commitment that has seen CSOs taking a place of prominence.
Building on the Girls Learn Without Fear report, published in 2013, Plan International has maintained a strong commitment to ensuring our work is supported by a substantial evidence base. This report presented solutions aimed at preventing and responding to school-related gender-based violence against girls and boys. The solutions drew from existing policy examples, as well as global civil society campaigns, international instruments and the voices of girls themselves. With this report, Plan International called on governments to prioritise action to ensure that all children can learn free from violence, and that girls benefit from their equal right to education.
Following this, the Promoting Equality and Safety in Schools (PEASS) initiative was developed by Plan as part of the Because I Am a Girl campaign’s Global Girls Innovation Programme. This innovative and results-oriented initiative has been developed around research and programming to address gender inequality in schools and combat the prevalence of SRGBV in and around schools in Asia. PEASS uses innovative engagement modalities that include the declaration of violence free schools, participatory education sector gender reviews, participatory interaction with girls and the use of feedback tools (e.g. girls empowerment star), to enact transformative change
In 2015, as part of the PEASS initiative, Plan International and the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) undertook research in five countries in Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Vietnam) to assess the prevalence, nature, response and reporting of various forms SRGBV in, around, and on the way to school. We spoke to more than 9,000 girls and boys. The research found that students’ inequitable gender attitudes are a main driver of SRGBV in Asia, with boys having more regressive gender attitudes than girls. The high prevalence of both physical and emotional violence in schools and at home makes students feel unsafe and increases the likelihood of their perpetration of violence.
We know that an estimated 246 million girls and boys experience school related violence every year. Such violence is pervasive across income levels, geographic regions and cultures, while being particularly pervasive within already excluded groups. To tackle such an embedded problem, governments and donors must work hand in hand with educational institutes, communities and girls and boys themselves to be the glue that binds public and private activity together. To be an amplifying platform for communities, a community connected liaison for governments, a thought-leader to institutions and a partner to students, Plan is able to unite a diverse coalition in such a way as to strengthen the common good.
With the sole focus on the well-being of children and girls at the heart of its work, Plan International, like many other CSOs, commits to being bipartisan and free of other agendas. In addition, we are committed to working in partnership with communities and other CSOs, to empower them and ensure that a collaborative approach to improving the lives of girls remains a key priority. The world will always need independent organizations and individuals to act as watchdogs, ethical guardians and advocates of the marginalized or under-represented. Civil society in all its forms has an important role in holding all stakeholders, including itself, to the highest levels of accountability. We are accountable to our partners, to our governments, to ourselves and most importantly to girls and boys themselves, ensuring every child has access to a safe, quality and equitable school experience and that every girl has the safe space in which they can learn, lead, decide and thrive.
Mary Bridger, Gender Research and Equality. Global Working Group School Related Gender Based Violence Advocacy Task tread Chair.