Factors for Success: What we have learned about ending School-Related Gender-Based Violence

December 10, 2017

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Submitted by Sujata Bordoloi, Coordinator of  The Global Working Group to End School Related Gender-Based Violence for the 16 Days of Activism campaign to #EndSRGBV 


How can working on gender norms within communities help reduce SRGBV?

How can we work better with different sectors and ministries to address SRGBV in a holistic way?

How can we advocate more effectively? What evidence do we need?

Over forty representatives from 15 organisations met last week in Dakar to talk about these questions and strategies to address School-Related Gender-Based Violence (SRGBV). The Global Working Group to End SRGBV, with UNGEI and UNESCO hosted a Learning Symposium bringing together global and national level actors to strengthen their own approaches and identify ways to magnify the collective momentum toward ending SRGBV.

The symposium provided a platform to exchange current knowledge, methodologies and tools to address SRGBV encouraging representatives from civil society organizations, donor governments, education unions, ministries of education, research and academic institutions and UN agencies to share and learn from each other. The diversity of stakeholders in the room could be taken as an indicator of the multiplicity of actions needed at the levels of school, community, household, institutions, legal and policy frameworks to make a difference. It is also a signal that continued commitments are needed from donors and the international development community to invest in ending SRGBV.

The dialogue was rich because of the variety of perspectives and approaches.

For example, health researchers sat around the table with ministry of education officials. They talked about addressing child sexual abuse through school based interventions and lessons from a multi-sectoral and inter-ministerial approach to protection and safe learning environments.

We talked about the effectiveness of child-centered teaching and learning practices in reducing the use of corporal punishment. We debated whether these can be integrated with gender responsive curricula and pedagogy to address gender discrimination, sexual harassment and violence in and around schools.

There was a recognition that solutions to ending SRGBV will not be straight forward. However, there were a few critical elements that stood out and were common across strategies that worked.

These ‘factors for success’ are:

A multi-sectoral response with joint ownership and accountability across ministries is a critical factor that facilitates prioritization of violence against children across different sectors so that violence in schools and education’s role in prevention gains adequate attention and funding. A joint national plan developed by bringing in relevant ministries of education, family and child welfare, social protection with appropriate accountability mechanisms enables SRGBV to be integrated in ongoing ministry of education efforts. This includes inclusion of frameworks to address SRGBV within education sector plans and strategic collaborations with teacher training institutions to roll out SRGBV curricula. A robust policy framework and action plan also provides a foundation for implementation at the district level and in schools.

Integrating diverse and mixed approaches to address gender and power imbalances. Strategies such as the use of child-centred teaching and learning that breakdown power hierarchies between teachers and learners contribute to equitable norms within the classroom. This can form an entry point to integrate broader gender equality approaches that examine power dynamics between girls and boys, female and male teachers and address SRGBV holistically within schools.

Building a pool of well trained and engaged teachers and facilitators on SRGBV, and expertise around new methodology. While teacher turnover and limited availability of trained personnel to implement new methodologies is a challenge. Initiatives which have worked with nationally identified trainers, teachers and facilitators and invested in knowledge and skills transfer around reflective methodologies such as active pedagogy or gender action learning have sustained and proved effective. This creates a network of support to draw from and contributes to transforming social norms by modelling new and positive ways of teaching and learning.

Facilitating dialogue on social norms within communities and schools recognising that communities and schools are mutually influencing loci of social norms. Social norms within the community and in households influence attitudes and behaviours in school. Schools can also be a locus for change, stimulating social change within communities. Starting an ongoing dialogue around social and gender norms with parents, formal and informal community leaders, community based organisations, teachers, youth groups as a process rather than a means to an end is critical. The process of dialogue and reflection on the values and beliefs that underlie social norms can influence shifts in attitudes, behaviours and practice related to the use of violence.

At the end of the Symposium, we agreed that as we collectively advance in this work, a few lessons are important to remember:

Expect push back - efforts to shift social norms and change behaviour means challenging existing power structures.

Transformative approaches take time and long term investment and this may not always be available. However, short term ‘boutique’ projects have the challenge of sustainability and scalability.

Remain diligent about the ethical issues in collecting data on SRGBV and making systematic linkages with protection and referral systems: the safety of girls and boys is at stake.

At the end of the 16 Days of Activism and on Human Rights Day, it is an important time to remember that SRGBV is a grave violation of human rights and a child’s right to education in a safe learning environment free from all forms of violence and discrimination.


Sujata Bordoloi is the coordinator of the Global Working Group to End SRGBV, a coalition of 40 agencies working on SRGBV. It is co-hosted by UNGEI and UNESCO with support from USAID. She is an education specialist working on gender and girls’ education issues and has previously worked on establishing education in post-disaster and post-conflict settings.  


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