Publication Date: 2004
Author/Publisher: Academy for Educational Development (AED)
This report highlights concerns of gender-based violence (GBV) faced by girls in school, with a focus on case studies from two large provincial towns in Benin. Participatory learning and action techniques (PLA) were used in conjunction with interviews and workshops with students and their families. It is aimed at policymakers to provide more information on this growing problem, along with strategies to combat it. While not exclusively or even predominantly an African issue, evidence suggests that sexual harassment in schools is a growing problem across the continent. Bothboys and girls are victims, but groping, bullying, verbal abuse, and rape are most often suffered by girls and young women. Sexual violence and harassment of girls is a direct cause of underachievement, dropout, damage to physical and psychological health, early and unintended pregnancies, and STI transmission, including HIV/AIDS. This study focuses on teacher-student harassment, both because of the impact it has on schools and because Beninese students identified teachers as most often responsible for the harassment they experience in the school environment. While highlighting a phenomenon that undermines girls’ education, this study does not seek to demonise schools or teachers, but rather seeks to emphasise that schools are not always safe havens from gender-based violence and that gender-based violence at school undermines girls’ academic enrolment, achievement, and retention. The research conducted with students and their parents revealed that parents’ recognised that cultural practices such as forced marriage may contribute to ongoing problems with GBV, as well as the need for school policies that encouraged girls to speak out rather than feel ashamed. Other recommendations include improving community education about children’s and youth rights and establishing a confidential, effective complaint procedure for students.