Saturday, 16 January 2021

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Putting a stop to school-related gender-based violence

Speaker Annica Floren - DEVCO EC

Yesterday a “Putting a stop to school-related gender-based violence” conference was held along with a presentation of UNESCO, UN Women and other organisations’ Global guidance on addressing school-related gender-based violence. The conference was introduced by Annica Floren (Deputy Head of Unit, DEVCO B4 Culture, Education and Health) who welcomed Sally Beadle (Programme Specialist, Section of Health and Education, UNESCO), Hans De Greve (Senior Education Advisor, VVOB head office) and Wouter Boesman, (Programme Manager, VVOB Vietnam office) as specialists on the subject.

School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is a phenomenon which affects millions of children, families and communities. It concerns all countries around the world, as well as all cultures, regions and economies.  SRGBV can be defined as acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence occurring in and around schools, perpetrated as a result of gender norms and stereotypes, and enforced by  unequal  power  dynamics. (UNESCO)

“Every year, more than 246 million children are subjected to gender violence in or around schools,” explained Ms Beadle. While Over 700 million school-aged children live in countries where they are not fully protected by law from corporal punishment at school (UNICEF 2018).

According to Ms Beadle, girls are more likely to experience psychological bullying, cyber-bullying and sexual harassment and violence. Boys are more likely to experience physical violence and corporal punishment. Students who identify as or who are a presumed to be Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual or Intersex (LGBT+) often experience heightened rates of violence from teachers and students.

This kind of violence has very real consequences for the victims, ranging from depression and low self-esteem, to early and unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. This violence also has a serious impact on school performances, with many students choosing not to go to school or not giving their full potential or dropping out completely.

UNESCO, UN Women and some 40 global organisations have therefore now created a Global guidance on addressing school-related gender-based violence based on the Sustainable Development Goals. The strategy implemented mainly aims at local prevention, including strong partnerships with leaders (governments, regions, communities) but also from civil society. In conclusion, “SRGBV is still under research and very much underreported. Its elimination is a central Human Right and is at the core of our work,” said Ms. Floren.

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