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Educate for equality

Putting gender equality at the heart of education

Ayesha Siddika
A teacher with a group of students
Students from an underserved community in Bangladesh educating others to stand against all forms of gender-based violence. August 2022
Credit: Ayesha Siddika

We dream of a society where our children feel safe, a society where every school creates a space where our children feel protected and secure.

This yearning hope for a violence-free society can be a reality only when we take a stand as a collective. It is possible only when we recognize that gender-based violence is not limited to the violation of human rights; it is a barrier to quality education in a safe environment.

A collective youth voice: ending violence in school

We envision a society where the prevention of school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is not just a part of a checklist, but a recognized priority within education policy at regional and global levels.

With that note, Safe To Learn has supported a youth and survivor-led advocacy brief document, which aims to support collective advocacy on the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence in and through schools globally.

This collective voice is a collaboration between Safe to Learn, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), UNICEF, UNESCO, UNGEI, Plan International, Together for Girls, survivors from the Brave Movement, the End Violence Civil Society Forum, Education Cannot Wait, SRGBV Working Group and youth advocates from Transform Education and GPE to build a strong coalition for the formation of a safer educational environment for all.

Youth voices at the forefront

The Safe to Learn global advocacy taskforce recognizes the power of youth advocacy, where one voice can turn into a thousand echoes. On multiple occasions, inputs from diverse youth voices have been incorporated into the creation of an inclusive gender briefing by Safe to Learn and partner organizations.

For example, youth Leaders shared their insights by contributing to the gender brief document. As a GPE Youth Leader, I had the opportunity to be on the Safe to Learn Global Advocacy Taskforce to input on advocacy plans as well as support on both global and national-level influencing.

I have been documenting the voices of young people from Bangladesh who brought valuable insights from their experiences, sharing their perspectives and personal encounters. Samantha Shahrin from Teach For Bangladesh, a young professional who has worked in underserved schools in Bangladesh to combat SRGBV has said:

“The incidents of violence are not sudden instances, rather they form through repetitive nuanced practices and gestures.”

The youth voices have emphasized not only policy change within the whole school or a participatory approach, but also to have rigorous monitoring, evaluation and learning to have the education ecosystem be free of gender-based violence.

Children who stood against gender-based violence in Bangladesh

"When I used to experience harassment, I would feel afraid and ashamed. I wouldn't tell anyone, not even my parents. But now I know my voice matters, I can protest and stand up for myself against any form of violence."

This was shared by a 7th-grade student from an underserved community in Bangladesh as part of “Uttoron,” a collaborative community project I co-led in 2022 as a Fellow of Teach For Bangladesh.

Through the collaboration of local stakeholders, school authorities and students, Project Uttoron implemented comprehensive interventions including awareness campaigns, workshops, student-led advocacy programs and assistance services to survivors of violence in school.

This project sent out a message to the whole community that gender-based violence is not something to be taken lightly, and that victims can always have a place to be heard and seek help.

students holding a sign that says "it's time to end violence"
Students stand up against school-related gender-based violence. Bangladesh, August 2022
Credit: Ayesha Siddika
A call to eliminate gender-based violence in school

“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it can change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.” - Barack Obama

It is time to take a collective stand against school related gender-based violence, and to be the bridge between policymakers and our children. A mere acknowledgment of the violence experienced by our children is not enough.

Comprehensive policy formulation, at both global and regional levels, is what is required to address all forms of gender-based violence.

Initiatives to eliminate gender-based violence cannot be accomplished without the power of young people and the survivors. Their voices can be heard by including them in policy dialogue and decision-making process.

Let’s set political priority and vouch for an active collaboration between young people, survivors and all national and global stakeholders in policy making as well as execution to bring about the reality where every school is a safe haven for children.

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