School related gender-based violence transgresses the psychological, physical and sexual integrity of students. It includes, but is not limited to, verbal and sexual assault, sexual abuse, corporal punishment and intimidation, having its root causes connected to gender norms and stereotypes. Frequently it is aggravated by socio-economic conditions, gender, age, ethnic, disability or national origin.
Gender violence against children and adolescents is prevalent across the region, and not specific to just a few countries, affecting both girls and boys. In Honduras 16% of women and 10% of men aged 18-24 years old experienced sexual violence before they were 18 years old. In Haiti 26% for women and 21% for men experienced sexual violence.
The gravity of this challenge led the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE), in alliance with Alternatives, to seek innovative approaches to connect participatory action-research with national level policy advocacy. The initiative provides an opportunity for local communities to become their own agents of change, with CLADE’s member education coalitions in Honduras, Haiti and Nicaragua as facilitators.
Cultural shifts, safe environments, implementation and enforcement of existing laws and effective support and responses are ultimately needed to profoundly transform the dynamics that give rise to violence against children and adolescents, including gender-based violence.
This initiative, supported by the Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) and Education Out Loud, is having an impact on challenging practices that were previously normalized, a key barrier for the human right to violence-free education, particularly in rural schools where these norms are more strongly entrenched.