Chalk Back is a collective of young activists around the world raising awareness about gender-based harassment and violence. We receive anonymous testimonials via Instagram direct message, chalk the stories on the streets of our cities, and then post the images on Instagram. Through our messages, we have seen how students around the world are profoundly impacted by gender-based harassment and violence. They encounter gender-based violence in schools, either by peers or teachers, school staff such as security guards, janitors, or gender-based street harassment on their way to school.
Youth activism is a method to highlight and amplify these first-hand experiences and empower students to speak up about what has happened to them. Using hands-on activism, Chalk Back calls for everyone to pay close attention to what is happening in schools around the world. We need school leaders, teachers and education support staff to listen and read these stories so we can change the reality of gender-based violence in schools.
As you scroll through some first hand experiences submitted by students in South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, Western Australia, the Ukraine, and the US, consider that these are just a few of many untold and unheard stories. Recognizing the severe impact of gender-based violence on students around the world is the first step towards a better future.
Sometimes harassment in schools looks like rude ‘passing’ comments, but often it escalates to physical actions. Time after time, the Chalk Back community receives direct message testimonials from students who have been inappropriately touched by their classmates.
The stories we receive show a disturbing theme: teachers, staff, fellow students and schools often do not take harassment seriously. While they may briefly address the immediate problem, only rarely are long term solutions put in place. And more often, the prevailing response is to belittle the problem with phrases like “boys will be boys” and meet reports with inaction.
Disturbingly, school harassment is not contained in school grounds. Students face harassment on their walk to school or while spending time with their peers outside of school — either in person or online.
More significantly, school harassment sets an example for students as they get older. For many female students, the behavior from their male peers is ‘normal’. When schools respond with inaction or phrases like “boys will be boys,” or blame female students for wearing certain clothing, the harassment and violence is enabled to continue.
In order to prevent school-related SRGBV, teachers, school staff and school leaders must first and foremost address victim blaming attitudes and inaction.
Our call to action is for all schools to provide a safe place for students to turn when they face harassment, so they know they’re not alone.
This is also where we come in. If you’re facing harassment in school, know that there are outside resources that you can use to take action. Social media is a powerful platform and tool. Message us on @chalkbackorg for support or to share your story, or if you’re able, join us and #chalkback.