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Partnership Approaches to Eliminating SRGBV: an EU Development Days panel


“Lisa was a pupil at school in Ghent who had just turned 16 when she committed suicide. After her death, her brother Thibault set up a Facebook page on which he made an emotional call to young people. He wrote: “My sister has taken her life because of bullying. Help me make sure it is not too late for someone else.”

As part of the 2018 EU Development Days conference, a panel of educationists shared experiences and expertise in tackling school-related gender-based Violence (SRGBV) in formal and informal settings across the globe. The story of a teenage girl in Belgium was followed by the harrowing testimonials of girls all over the world: stories of rape, abuse, exclusion, harassment, and discrimination that characterise the daily lives of so many girls in their quest to get the education they need.

Annually, more than 246 million children worldwide experience gender-based violence in or around schools. In light of this, a poignant question emerged from the event: if you knew that your child risked such traumas, would you risk sending them to school? It is a global crisis. Schools are no longer safe spaces, but places that children, especially girls, are fleeing to escape bullying and violence. Where the energy of girls that should be devoted to learning, thriving, and enjoying a violence-free childhood, is stolen from them, it is being used instead in vigilance, self-protection, and fear.

The panellists, including Hendrina Doroba, Executive Director of FAWE; Haldis Holst, Deputy General Secretary of Education International; Anne-Brigitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International; Anna Murru, Partnership Manager of VVOB; and Nora Fyles, Head of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), were unanimous in their determination to shine a light on the issues surrounding SRGBV and shared a number of strategies for tackling them:

“Pedagogy should be inclusive. It should take into account needs of boys and girls” – Anna Murru, Partnership Manager of VVOB

Any programmes or interventions addressing SRGBV must include a wide range of stakeholders, including teachers, community members, and men and boys. Joint policy agendas and global policy frameworks show international commitments to end SRGBV. However, without accountability or binding agreements, we cannot always guarantee implementation of these policies. A potential solution would be to bind aid money to more effective policy and programmes.

“The depth of taboo around these issues, the conversation of GBV in schools, does not happen in many parliaments around the world… so how do we get the conversation going? How do we break the taboo of this reality? If we are not deeply committed to breaking that taboo and breaking the silence then we have a problem, because this has to be at the heart of any conversation we have” - Anne-Brigitte Albrectsen

In too many countries, SRGBV is a taboo subject. The silence must be broken in order to make progress. All stakeholders must therefore acknowledge the gravity of the issue and agree upon a common message.

“Let’s take a holistic, multifaceted approach. We need to have a gender approach and an inclusive approach” - Hendrina Doroba, Executive Director FAWE

At the forefront of addressing harmful gender norms, breaking the silence, and protecting young people in school settings, are teachers and school managers. Teaching Unions can be mobilised to take collective and comprehensive action, including designing codes of conduct, creating gender-sensitive curricula and teaching practices, and recognising their role as agents of change and influence.

“SRGBV is a demonstration of the deep structure of gender equality in the world” - Nora Fyles, UNGEI

The root of gender-based violence is gender inequality, and therefore the power imbalance between men and women, boys and girls, needs to be addressed. As well as including men and boys in the conversation, children need to be taught appropriate behaviour.

“The more we support, and fund, young activists, young feminists around the world, the more we render the change we want to see” - Anne-Brigitte Albrectsen, Plan International

The call to end SRGBV is widely heard in educational institutions, government offices, and international summits all over the world. Now is the time to listen to young people, survivors, activists and changemakers whose voices must be amplified.  They can play a key role in breaking the silence and bringing these issues to their community, schools, parents and peers.

Listen to the full discussion here.


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