Gender-based violence and education
The estimates are shocking: according to UNESCO, around 246 million girls and boys are subjected to some form of gender based violence (GBV) in and around schools every year – including sexual abuse and corporal punishment.
While more research is needed to understand how these problems can be addressed over the longer term, evidence suggests that holistic approaches, including engaging with the wider community and addressing harmful gender norms, is crucial.
At an education seminar on school related gender-based violence (SRGBV), we caught up with Steve Passingham and Psyche Kennett to discuss how the problem of GBV is being tackled from the institutional to the classroom level.
“The presence of violence in schools is huge and has negative consequences for hundreds of millions of young people,” said Steve Passingham, Seconded National Expert on Education at DEVCO.
The EU is actively strengthening its engagement to address GBV, including through the Gender Action Plan 2016 - 2020, the Spotlight Initiative, and the use of Gender Focal Points in their cooperation engagements. While an institutionally focused approach, addressing enforcement and legal aspects of GBV, can make a difference, the importance of shifting cultural and social norms through education remains central said Passingham.
Watch the interview with Steve Passingham here:
“There is absolutely a case for going after gender issues head on, but there are lots of ways to complement this,” explained Psyche Kennett, Independent Expert on Education, Governance and Training. While legal reforms and the formulation of new policies play an important role in addressing questions of inclusivity and equity, tackling questions of gender violence in the classroom can forge healthier practices at an early age.
For Kennett, a holistic approach to SRGBV serves to address root causes of a wider societal issue through countering harmful images of masculinity and femininity. “It’s important to start at schools because there are a lot of parameters that you can work with – and this is where kids learn their social behaviour,” she added.
Watch the interview with Psyche Kennett on key issues and how SRGBV can be addressed:
From mapping exercises where girls and boys are asked to chart spaces where they feel unsafe – poorly lit hallways, crowded entrances – to inclusive, non-authoritarian teaching methods, bringing both teachers and students into the discussion is an important first step. Kennett emphasised the need for a frank and inclusive discussion on SRGBV to bring the issue fully into the light and address it comprehensively.
“Gender based violence in schools is endemic,” she said. “It’s in every school and it’s always been there. We need to counter the belief that it’s a social norm and that it’s just what happens, and we can do this through employing the right methodologies.”
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Image © EU/ ECHO and Save the Children