Building peace in the minds of men and women

When gender norms lead to school violence

16 May 2019

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© US Navy / Eli J. Medellin

Charity walks to school daily. Two blocks from school, she often walks past a large group of boys from an older class. They whistle at her, tell her she is beautiful. Sometimes the boys follow her, and touch her without her consent. She feels uncomfortable and embarrassed. She often stays home because she cannot face the harassment.

Every day, thousands of students like Charity experience school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV), defined as acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence in and around schools, perpetrated because of gender norms and stereotypes, and enforced by unequal power dynamics.

The European Union, a long-term supporter of gender equality, gathered representatives from government and non-government organizations together, for a conference on ending school-related gender-based violence. Held in Brussels on 23 April 2019, the conference looked at strategies to eliminate this type of violence, with case studies presented from Cambodia, Vietnam and Suriname.

UNESCO presented the Global Guidance on SRGBV published by UNESCO and UN Women, which introduces a holistic approach to addressing school-related gender-based violence. Other speakers talked about their experience using the guidance to design and implement national programming work.

Speaking at the conference, UNESCO Programme Specialist, Sally Beadle, said efforts to address school violence are often ‘gender blind’, but we must acknowledge how gender affects experiences of and vulnerabilities to violence in order to inform efforts to address the underlying causes.

“Schools, as formative institutions that contribute to creating values and behaviors of individuals, are a key site in which we can focus efforts to shift harmful gender norms, promote respect and equality. The Global Guidance is helping to inform efforts in a range of countries.”

“Investing in preventing SRGBV is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. High rates of school violence have a significant negative impact on students’ health, wellbeing and learning outcomes. On the flipside, when children attend schools where violence is not accepted and less prevalent, students feel a stronger sense of belonging to school which is associated with better learning outcomes.”

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