Learning without Fear: An appeal to fight school-based violence against girls

On the occasion of the 3rd International Day of the Girl Child, Director-General Irina Bokova participated in the opening of a conference on “Learning without Fear: A major Challenge for Girls’ Education,” organized by the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Development, and the NGO Plan International France.

Introducing the meeting, the Secretary of State for Development and Francophonie Ms Annick Girardin underlined that “school gender-based violence is one of the main brakes to girls’ education,” noting that such violence “remains in large part invisible, and hence goes largely unpunished.” She described a series of actions carried out in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Côte d’Ivoire in the context of France’s development cooperation, drew attention to a report published on the subject and stressed the importance of integrating the issue of school gender-based violence in public policy in the context of the post-2015 UN development agenda.

The Director-General also highlighted that it was imperative to integrate gender equality into public education policies, to target the weak links in the educational cycle of girls, and to put forward positive female models. She stressed that “there cannot be equality through education if there is no equality in the school, and this entails an unrelenting fight against all forms of discrimination and violence. School gender-based violence reflects wider patterns of violence in society, and is a matter of collective social responsibility.” She said that UNESCO and UN Women are working together to draw up global guidance for education ministries on strategies to eliminate school-based violence against girls, in the context of a new global working group hosted by UNESCO.

Secretary of State Ms Girardin announced that France would propose a resolution to the Executive Board Session in April 2015 on school gender-based violence, together with recommendations to fight against it.

The conference, held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, gathered Ministers of Education from sub-Saharan Africa, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) and civil society stakeholders in the aim to sensitize and mobilize policymakers and decision-makers on the importance of addressing school gender-based violence.