Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It’s an important moment to recognize that violence against girls is both a human rights issue and a barrier to girls attending school and learning.
Violence against women and girls is a global issue, and it’s estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence at some point in their lives.
When girls are forced into early marriage or affected by school-related gender-based violence, such as sexual or physical violence on the journey to, or at school, the harmful effects can be life-long. Girls married young and exposed to violence are at increased risk of dropping out of school or failing to learn, severely curtailing their future prospects to achieve their full potential in life.
Yet it is estimated that more than 240 million girls and boys are affected by school-related gender-based violence each year. Outside of school, 1 in 5 girls around the world is set to be married before the age of 18.
The personal and psychological costs of this violence are borne by girls themselves, and new research supported by GPE this week shows that through its impact on girls’ education, child marriage is also costing 12 African countries $63 billion in lost earnings and human capital wealth.
GPE’s support to preventing violence
GPE is committed to enabling partner governments to prevent and respond to violence in and around their education systems, through policy dialogue, gender-responsive education sector planning and grant funding.
GPE is supporting activities to combat gender-based violence in education sector plans. For example:
- In Gambia, the government is developing an anti-sexual harassment policy to address gender-based violence in and around schools and a life-skills education program that includes topics such as gender-based violence in and around schools, HIV/AIDS prevention and global citizenship.
- In the Democratic Republic of Congo, GPE supports bi-annual communication campaigns for the prevention of violence against women and against early marriages.
- A regional program for educators in Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Togo and Zambia has promoted a systematic approach to addressing school-related gender-based violence as part of education sector plans, better data collection, analysis and monitoring, teacher training and curricula reviews.
GPE’s global and regional activities grants support research and knowledge sharing on school-related gender-based violence, including a rigorous review of global research evidence on policy and practice on school-related gender-based violence.
In partnership with the UN Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) and UNICEF, GPE’s Guidance on Gender Responsive Education Sector Planning supports countries to include activities to address school-related gender-based violence within a gender responsive sector plan.
Global advocacy to end violence against girls
Greater political support to tackle violence against girls is urgently needed. To build this political support the GPE Secretariat is partnering with global actors like UNGEI and civil society partners. As an active member of the Global Working Group to End School-Related Gender-Based Violence, we have supported resources and campaigns to call for greater action on school-related gender-based violence.
GPE is continually strengthening its own safeguards against sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation, working to ensure that partners implementing GPE grants also enforce a zero-tolerance policy.
Today and every day we must recognize the impact of violence on girls’ education. We need to ensure every government can protect and promote girls’ rights to an education, free from the threat of violence.