School-related gender-based violence prevents millions of children from reaching their academic potential

The policy paper, “School-related gender-based violence is preventing the achievement of quality education for all,” launched today at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York.

School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is a global phenomenon that impacts millions of children worldwide, especially girls. The new paper explores the extent, causes and repercussions of SRGBV and highlights the need for gender disaggregated evidence to better inform policy.  Available data on violence against children allow us to build a partial picture of gender-based violence in schools, but a significant number of cases are under-reported and the exact number of children suffering as a result of SRGBV remains unknown.

Credit: Hugo Infante/ UNESCO EFA Report

Credit: Hugo Infante/ UNESCO EFA Report

SRGBV is defined as acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence occurring in and around schools, perpetrated as a result of social norms and gender stereotypes, and enforced by unequal power dynamics. It also refers to the differences between girls’ and boys’ experiences of and vulnerabilities to violence.

Estimates from Plan International, based on the number of children affected by verbal bullying, show that 246 million boys and girls experience this type of SRGBV each year. In France, 40% of students reported being victims of cyberbullying and in Zambia, 61% of schoolchildren reported being bullied in the previous month. Millions more children suffer physical violence at school under the guise of discipline: over one-half of all children live in countries where they have no legal protection from corporal punishment in school.

Sexual violence is a particularly destructive form of SRGBV, manifested as verbal and psychological harassment, sexual assault, rape, coercion and discrimination in and around schools.

The teacher can send a girl to leave her exercise books in the office and the teacher follows her to make a proposal for sex, and because she fears to answer no, she says I will answer tomorrow. She then stops coming to school because of fear …” – Margaret, grade 7 student in Malawi

Reports from Sierra Leone show that girls who cannot pay for school-related expenses are often coerced into sexual relationships by male teachers. A recent review from UNESCO reveals that 10% of adolescent girls aged 15-19 have reported instances of forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts in the previous year. It is important to note that sexual violence affects both boys and girls in all countries regardless of level of economic development. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that one in three 16-18 year olds has experienced unwanted touching in schools.

‘I am thinking of leaving school because of beatings and they insult us and our parents. The teacher beat me with a stick and my hands had been injured’ – Young girl, Egypt

Bullying is one of the most widely documented types of violence in schools. The 2011 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) from 30 countries shows that in all but two countries, over 20% of students reported experiencing at least some form of bullying once or twice per month. Bullying can increase absenteeism and reduce school achievement for both boys and girls.

Credit: Zanussi Nimir/ UNESCO EFA Report

Credit: Zanussi Nimir/ UNESCO EFA Report

Children with disabilities, LGBT children and those belonging to disadvantaged groups are more likely to experience SRGBV. Children that live in conflict zones are also more vulnerable. An early UNHCR/Save the Children UK report uncovered widespread sexual exploitation of Liberian girls by teachers in refugee camps in Guinea. Fear for girls’ safety in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea have also led to parents withdrawing their girls from school.

SRGBV can have serious detrimental effects on children’s health and well-being and their ability to learn to their full potential. It can negatively impact school participation, learning levels and completion rates and raises barriers to gender equality in education and wider society.

School-related gender-based violence is preventing the achievement of quality education for all,” calls for the following:

  • Improved research and monitoring in order to clarify the risk factors, facilitating conditions and contexts of SRGBV
  • The development of national policies and action plans to identify, prevent and tackle SRGBV
  • A multisectorial approach with collaboration at the district level across education, health and youth and welfare sectors.

Read the full paper – School-related gender-based violence is preventing the achievement of quality education for all

This entry was posted in Conflict, Gender, Health, Human rights, Quality of education, Teachers. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to School-related gender-based violence prevents millions of children from reaching their academic potential

  1. Reblogged this on Aqeelah Ikram and commented:
    Observing the global violence against women as a fundamental barrier to their social and economic development has also fostered a sharper understanding of its contextual background which has construed what I would call a paradigm. As a result, we can observe how the behaviour of our Youngers has staged their adult interactions later on in life.
    Children are impressionable and therefore happiness, loving and kindness are innate to them. It is their observations and reflections upon the world and its inhabitants which shape them. This is common knowledge in its basic, most humble form. As demonstrated in this article, there have been increasing reports of gender-based violence in educational settings on an international spectrum.
    In the developing world, where economic imbalances are extreme, literacy rates low and basic universal education a goal rather than a reality, the question of gender violence and its impact on education and health is absolutely critical. Little work has been done to systematically document and review information on the prevalence and consequences of this violence in formal educational settings, nor to look carefully at intervention strategies that are or could be in place to address the problem.
    The consequences of school-related gender-based violence for the health and educational outcomes for students display the patterns of economic inequality, cultural beliefs about sex and sexuality, and adolescent sexual activity in developing countries. This is entirely pragmatic.
    While the hidden curriculum constitutes the mannerism which will be implemented and necessitated in the world of work with rewards of success and revenue, it is often oppressive, demeaning and actively violent towards women. This is particularly explanative of the impeding presence of occupational sexism even within developed countries.
    Don’t call her into your office and use your authority to appeal to her as the good guy, so to speak. Would you work through a resolution and flash a wink if she was a man sitting and squirming in that seat? Nonetheless, she understands what you are not even mildly conscious of.


  2. Thanks for this literature on SRGBV. I have just had a weeks” training on them and positive discipline. Please always send literature on to me on line.


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