“There are few places in the world where it is more dangerous or disempowering to grow up female” says a report on South Sudan by Care International titled “The girl has no rights”. In South Sudan, violence against women and girls is a persistent feature of daily life. At home, on the way to school, in school, violence is embedded in cultural and customary practices and widely accepted as normal practice (IRC, 2012).
When South Sudan joined the Global Partnership for Education in 2012, its record on gender violence was shocking and its record on gender equality in education was poor, lagging behind many other countries. For every 10 boys enrolled in primary school there were only 4 girls and at secondary level only 3 girls. For every 100 male teachers, there were just 12 women.
Prevention and positive practices
The Global Partnership’s support to South Sudan’s education sector has focused on helping the ministry of education and partners to implement a range of interventions that together will begin to reduce school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV).
Recognizing the positive effect of women teachers on girls’ enrollment, retention, self-esteem and achievement in school, more women teachers are being hired.
School principals are undergoing leadership training and teachers and administrators are learning how to prevent gender-based violence and promote greater gender sensitivity in their schools and classrooms.
Building on the revised national curriculum, which promotes gender sensitivity and social cohesion, new textbooks reflecting greater gender sensitivity and social cohesion have been produced and distributed. Separate latrines and washing facilities for girls within school compounds will provide privacy and security.
Violence in schools affect millions of children
SRGBV includes psychological, physical and sexual violence against students at or on their way to and from school. The abuse can come in the form of explicit threats or acts of physical, violence, bullying, verbal or sexual harassment, non-consensual touching, sexual coercion and assault, and rape. The perpetrators can be other students, teachers and school staff, parent, relatives and community members.
In a recent review of 40 low- and middle-income countries by UNICEF, up to 10% of adolescent girls aged 15–19 reported incidences of forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts in the previous year and a Plan International report estimates 246 million girls and boys are harassed and abused in and around school every year.
A call to action
Today the Global Partnership, as an active member of the Global Working Group to End School-Related Gender-Based Violence, joins the Call to Action and the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign, whose theme this year is “From peace in the home to peace in the world: Make education safe for all.”
As part of the campaign, the Global Working Group is calling on multiple parties to take affirmative steps. It asks:
- UN agencies and member states to recognize that SRGBV is a major barrier to achieving the just-ratified Sustainable Development Goals.
- Governments adopt education policies aimed at reducing SRGBV and mechanisms for monitoring it empirically.
- Donors to prioritize and expand financing to support interventions and research that addressing SRGBV.
- Ministries of education, school administrators and education unions to adopt codes of conduct and training aimed at keeping professionals from engaging in or condoning SRGBV.
- Researchers to expand studies looking at the causes and solutions to SRGBV.
- NGOs, civil society groups and the international development community to drive a global movement -- together with men and boys, communities and stakeholders -- to eliminate SRGBV and to advocate with governments, donors and education authorities to address the threat of such violence.
- Local communities focus on ending harmful social and cultural beliefs and practices that give rise to violence against girls and boys in schools; and
- Girls and boys to “stand up and be recognized as change-makers. Raise your voices to act against SRGBV and demand safe and secure school environments for all girls and boys around the world.”
Ending the danger and disempowerment
The Global Partnership is supporting research to better understand and respond to SRGBV in 4 countries: Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Togo and Zambia.
We are supporting country level stakeholders to gather and use data and evidence to develop education sector plans that will protect girls and boys, prevent school-related gender-based violence and empower women and girls through a good quality education.
All children have the right to learn without fear. Join us and let’s make November 25 the beginning of a journey to learning without fear, for all.