Standing in solidarity — transforming education to end gender-based violence
By Natasha Harris-Harb & Gloria Diamond, UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI)
Trigger warning: School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is a human rights abuse, and can be tough to read about. You may have experienced it or know someone who has. This is a reminder to check in with yourself and others.
From November 25th to December 10th each year, something powerful happens. The global community gets real about gender-based violence. We talk about the uncomfortable. The often ignored or silenced. We unite. We take action.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign to mobilise action to end gender-based violence (GBV) in all its forms. Whilst 16 Days of activism is powerful and important, our efforts must not stop there. The momentum should continue, our voices should only get louder, our actions only get stronger. Gender-based violence happens 365 days a year, affecting millions of lives around the world — in our communities, our towns, and our schools. Yes, schools.
School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) refers to acts or threats of sexual, physical, or psychological violence in and around schools, perpetrated as a result of gender norms and stereotypes and enforced by unequal power dynamics. It is real, and it occurs everywhere.
School-related gender-based violence is real, and it occurs everywhere
Millions of children, and girls in particular, are affected by violence in and around schools every year. SRGBV impacts children’s ability to get to and from school, negatively impacts attendance rates and academic results and contributes to higher rates of school drop-out. SRGBV affects the entire school community, which is why we need action that is owned and implemented by the whole school. School leadership, parents and caregivers, youth and women’s groups, community members, religious and faith leaders and students — everyone has a role to play in eliminating SRGBV.
The Whole School Approach (WSA) is a model of best practices, a.k.a key ingredients, to make our schools safe:
- Effective school leadership and community engagement to create safe, gender-sensitive learning environments
- Establishing and implementing a code of conduct
- Capacity building of teachers and educational staff support
- Empowering children on child rights, participation and gender equality
- Improving reporting, monitoring and accountability
- Incident response
- Strengthening safe and secure physical environments in and around schools
- Engaging parents
16 Days is about solidarity, community, and turning advocacy into action. So let’s do it. How? An open letter. An open letter is a letter of protest or appeal. Throughout history, they have sparked debate, caught media attention, and have been a critical part of global movements.
An open letter to further a movement, this 16 Days and beyond.
Through this open letter, advocates across the world can come together, reflect on lived experiences of SRGBV, and demand action. The voices of powerful children and youth will bring urgency to this human rights violation. This is a global crisis that needs global action. From Canada to Zimbabwe and all countries and territories in between, students against SRGBV must join together now.
We need YOUth!
- From the 25th November to the 10th December, check out UNGEI’s social media channels. Here you will find videos to learn more about SRGBV, as well as discussion questions, powerful statistics and quotes to break the silence and start difficult but important conversations.
- On the 10th December (International Human Rights Day!), UNGEI will host an online write shop, a brave space to discuss the action that must be taken to eliminate SRGBV from our schools.
- Through this write shop, we will all unite to co-create an open letter addressed to the countries of the world, demanding action to address SRGBV. Sign up here.
- At the write shop, you can add your voice to the discussion, comment your ideas, or simply add your name to the letter in solidarity.
Marking the final day of the 16 Days of Activism with the start of a new global call to action is a sign of our commitment to ensuring that the fight to end SRGBV must continue beyond these 16 Days.
Want to learn more about school-related gender based-violence (SRGBV) and how you can help tackle it?