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Countries come together to share good practice and lessons learned on school-related gender-based violence

13.12.2013

UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in collaboration with partners in the East Asia Pacific UN Girls’ Education Initiative (EAP UNGEI) including UNICEF’s East Asia Pacific Regional Office (EAPRO) and Plan International hosted a regional roundtable from November 11-13, 2013 in Bangkok on School Related Gender Based Violence.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a global phenomenon that knows no geographical, cultural, social, economic, ethnic, or other boundaries. It occurs across all societies, represents a violation of human rights, and is a major obstacle to the achievement of gender equality.

Governments have signed onto international frameworks to protect children from all forms of violence, and recent reviews and initiatives have highlighted the extent to which children are exposed to school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) and the significance of education to prevent and eliminate SRGBV.

However, GBV is often tolerated and sustained by social institutions, including the school – the very place where we expect our children to be safe and protected.  SRGBV continues to be a serious barrier to educational participation, especially of girls, and casts doubt on the school as an appropriate forum for educating children and young people about gender equality, non-violent behaviour and sexual and reproductive health. Schools have the potential to bring about change but this cannot be effective if they are simultaneously sites of gender inequality and violence. 

The consultation brought together over 50 experts and key stakeholders from 15 countries involved in the development of research on, or the implementation, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), or funding of programmes to address, school-related gender-based violence. The countries represented included: China, Fiji, India, Indonesia (including Papua), Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, PNG, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Viet Nam, with additional representation from experts from the regional and global-level including France, the United Kingdom and the United States.  Participants all had recognized expertise and experience in the development of research on, or the implementation, evaluation or funding of programmes to address SRGBV.

The consultation used a variety of participatory and interactive plenary and group work sessions. The sessions and presentations were developed to advance the organizers and participants knowledge and learning in this field, both in terms of what we know about the nature and scope of SRGBV, its impact on individuals, and on how best to address it, including through education.

This consultation revealed that the actual scale of SRGBV is difficult to assess. There are many factors that were identified as contributing to the difficulties of assessing the scale of SRGBV. Some of these key areas include:

  • A lack of a common understanding of SRGBV across sectors, countries and policy and programmers.
  • A lack of data, limited accessibility and/or the difficulty in interpreting findings, with particular gaps in research on homophobic bullying, and student-teacher violence that is gender-based.
  • Some availability of data on violence overall, but a lack of sex-disaggregated data, and limited conceptualisation of violence as gender-specific (e.g. differential experiences of corporal punishment).

Specialists shared that there are discrepancies and inconsistencies between national and international policies and commitments. Participants recognized early in the consultation that the legal and policy environment need to be harmonized across community, national and international levels if we are going to be able to properly assess and respond to the scale of SRGBV.

Participants debated the concepts involved in defining SRGBV and came to the agreement on a working definition for the purpose of the consultation, and for future guidance in addressing these and issues related to SRGBV.  There was also recognition of the lack of data reporting systems and evidence based programs in place weakens the argument for policy reform for allocation of resources, in addition to weakening the accountability of governments to respond to the problem at country level.

Over the course of the meeting, many challenges to addressing and implementing good practice of policy and programming in response to SRGBV were identified. In particular, there were concerns raised in relation to:

  • Costing for SRGBV, including who should be responsible for this, and how the social and economic impact of SRGBV can be used as to make the case for prevention;
  • Coordination and partnerships  that would ensure a stronger multi-sectoral approach;
  • The lack of resources, funding and political commitment.

Participants shared positive examples of conceptual frameworks, interventions, and practical tools and resources to increase the quality and coverage of programmes to prevent or eliminate SRGBV. Some highlights of the good practice included:

  • Caregivers and community awareness - the development of a programme in Papua province, Indonesia, has been found to reduce corporal punishment. This involves working with children and families to identify new rules as an alternative method of discipline.
  • Teacher preparation - the acknowledgment that it is often difficult for teachers to deliver curriculum in an equitable way as they battle with balancing out traditional cultural values versus more advanced values, and they can be further limited by own their experiences and values.
  • Curriculum - the experience with implementing and monitoring the outcomes of the Choices curriculum in Nepal, and the GEMS curriculum in India (and its adaptation in Viet Nam) were found to be strong examples of good practice in curriculum design and development. Participants recognized the importance of involving young people and the community in different stages of curriculum development to properly reflect the needs and ensure support.
  • Policy and Legislation - an example from the Philippines was presented demonstrating the establishment of a national committee and advocacy group on sexual and reproductive health which established the link between SRH and GBV, and therefore enabled the Family Planning Association of the Philippines to advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Interventions and Practical Tools – Many experiences were shared of the use of social media to raise awareness of SRGBV) while other examples were provided of the development of leadership skills and the use of peer education to promote children and young people’s participation at all levels of policy programme design, reform and implementation.

Other elements of success that were identified included: strong coalitions and NGO networks; strong public and private partnerships; and support from stakeholders to the principles of gender equality .

At the end of the consultation, participants identified actions to take forward in the short term, medium term and long term. Commitments included:

  • Contributing to, and using the ‘16 Days of activism’ as a platform to promote awareness of SRGBV.
  • Establishing national steering committees to address SRGBV.
  • Reviewing current M&E tools including indicators and reporting systems.
  • Organising local consultations to address SRGBV.
  • Reviewing national plans of action in the education sector with a gender lens.
  • Undertaking more visible lobbying and advocacy for policy reform, and promoting improved systems or dissemination strategies of policies down to the local and school level so community, teachers and families, students understand and are aware of policies.
  • Supporting more visible and strengthened multi sectoral collaboration and coordination

Training journalists and the media to ensure accurate messages are being conveyed about SRGHBV.UNESCO, UNGEI and Plan are preparing an action plan to support the implementation of some of the above actions, and review progress of the commitments made. A regional desk review will also be made available shortly to further advance understanding of the nature, scale and consequences of SRGBV and good practice.

For additional information, please contact: Justine Sass, Regional HIV and AIDS Adviser for Asia and the Pacific, Chief, HIV Prevention and Health Promotion (HP2) Unit
UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education E-mail: j.sass@unesco.org


Related Links

School-related Gender Based-Violence, UNGEI-UNESCO Discussion Paper, November 2013 (in English and in Chinese languages)