#16Days – Futures free from gender-based violence: Fulfilling the right to education of every child everywhere
STEP 1 in the 16 STEPS to end School-Related Gender-Based Violence (SRGBV) is for UN Agencies and Member States to recognize that SRGBV is an important barrier to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” – Rumi
Two months into my new role at the UNGEI secretariat, I felt the exhilaration and excitement in ushering in the Global Goals, representing the hopes, ambitions and futures of every citizen of the world. The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) at the 70th UN General Assembly was a monumental accomplishment in many ways, bringing together 193 UN member states, activists, individuals, academia, youth groups, civil society actors, educationists, the private sector and development actors.
What has made the development of these goals unique is that we heard from children and parents, teachers and care givers about issues that affected them the most – experiences and threats of violence experienced in and around and on the way to and from schools.
“Ah! the bus stop is located too far from residential areas. After my evening classes, I am so afraid of being kidnapped by motorcycle taxi and taxi drivers. One time, there was a taxi with two men asking me to get on with them.” - Focus Group Discussion with female students
“I am looking forward to a future when school violence no longer exists. I wish my school mates and students in general would be more friendly to one another” - Male student, 14 years old, Long An, Vietnam
During the several years I worked in education in emergencies, providing psychosocial support services and access to education in post-conflict and disaster settings – violence in educational settings – while acknowledged did not receive the attention it requires. While we worked hard to address issues like corporal punishment and bullying through teacher training and curricular interventions, the gender dimensions of such acts and the threat and risk of other forms of physical, psychological and sexual violence was little understood. Violence against children and particularly gender based violence in school settings trickled its way into the Education For All Global Monitoring Reports following Pinheiro’s 2006 UN Report on Violence Against Children. This was still significant in that the phenomenon was being recognized as a global problem, even though the extent of its impact on children’s lives was yet unsubstantiated.
2015 has been a significant year for the global recognition of SRGBV as an impediment to achieving universal education. The EFA GMR with UNGEI published a policy brief on school-related gender-based violence and the 2015 Gender Summary found SRGBV to be a specific barrier to achieving gender equality in education. The inclusion of specific language around creating ‘gender-sensitive and non-violent learning environments and eliminating gender-based discrimination and violence in schools’ in both the Incheon Declaration adopted at the World Education Forum and the Framework for Action for Education 2030 is an indication of successful advocacy and the expansion of evidence on SRGBV over the last decade. The proposed thematic indicators to monitor progress on Education 2030 includes a specific indicator on SRGBV, making UN member states accountable to reporting on them.
These are significant milestones towards ending SRGBV, however much more work remains to be done.
While we know a lot more about SRGBV today than we did a few years ago, it is time to marry coordinated action with the drive to build a better knowledge base. From the MDGs, we’ve learned that issues of gender, social norms and power are nuanced and require a strong commitment towards understanding and investing in the context that one is operating within. We need a better understanding of what strategies have worked to address SRGBV and how to facilitate dialogues that foster positive gender norms and peer relationships within schools. There is a need to listen to the voices of children and youth who have spoken out and acted against SRGBV in their schools and communities. We need to be able to bring together teachers, parents, students, education institutions and governments to engage in transformative processes and find solutions to ending SRGBV within their schools and communities.
Partnerships will be a key driver for achieving results.
UNGEI has played an instrumental role in bringing together key stakeholders around SRGBV and with UNESCO and support from USAID established the Global Working Group to end School-Related Gender-Based Violence. What makes this partnership exciting is that it brings together the collective experience of a range of development actors who have used innovative strategies in low and middle income settings to address gender-based violence in and through schools. The multi-level gender-based approaches tested in Malawi and Sierra Leone by Concern Worldwide; the evidence based gender transformative Program HMD used to empower teachers and students by Promundo in Brazil; the Good Schools approach implemented by Raising Voices in Uganda; and the Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS) by ICRW in India and Vietnam; the BecauseIamaGirl campaign by Plan International and the boys and men for gender equality by MenEngage Alliance; the initiatives in Mali, Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Niger supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and the commitment of USAID to building a strong evidence base through its OASIS (Opportunities for Achievement and Safety in Schools) initiative – these are only a few examples of the breadth and depth of our members’ experience.
Today, the 25th of November is the first day of the 16 Days of Activism campaign. It is significant for the Global Working Group because it brings together the individual strengths of its members to launch a Global Call to Action to end School-Related Gender-Based Violence. The united voice of the campaign over the next 16 Days will resonate through our partners and networks and we hope will galvanize stronger action to harness the transformative potential of education and create learning environments free from gender-based discrimination and violence.
Ending SRGBV has to be a collective effort, across sectors and thematic areas, beginning with an unwavering commitment to truly envisioning and realizing futures free from gender based violence against children, in all its forms.
Sujata has worked in international development in the areas of education in emergencies, gender, adolescents and psychosocial support for the past 10 years. Prior to joining UNGEI, Sujata was a consultant in girls’ education and gender equality at UNICEF. She has held leadership positions responsible for establishing and managing education and psychosocial support programs in conflict and post-disaster settings with Save the Children UK and the American Red Cross. She has lived and worked in Indonesia, South Sudan, Myanmar, Haiti and India.
Sujata has a Master in Social Work (MSW) from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University, New York.