School-Related Gender-Based Violence: A New Report
Every day, girls and boys around the world face many forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence in and around schools: a boy gets beaten by older boys as a ‘rite of passage’ to adulthood; a male teacher seeks to exchange sex-for-grades with a female student; or a community member abuses an adolescent girl on their way to school. On too many occasions, such violence is tolerated by societies and institutions, including schools, and it is these forms of violence that contribute to the alarming numbers of girls and boys being excluded from schools with their learning chances under threat.
In response, UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), have joined forces to launch the End Gender Violence in Schools Initiative combining research, capacity building and knowledge exchange to contribute to one of the most critical education objectives today: increased equity, gender equality and inclusion for all in a full cycle of quality education, targeting the poorest and most marginalized, as reflected in the GPE Strategic Plan and the Incheon Declaration. School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) represents one of the worst forms of gender-based discrimination and requires coordinated, cross-sectoral approaches and responses with a variety of partners across sectors and institutions, at national, regional and global levels. To this end, we are particularly pleased to be partnering with UCL Institute of Education, the UN Girl’s Education Initiative and governments and partners in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Togo, and Zambia. With significant data and evidence gaps related to SRGBV, the End Gender Violence in Schools Initiative seeks to generate such an evidence base and foster effective actions to prevent and respond to SRGBV.
A major product of this partnership, this Global Review of Literature examined the latest research evidence on approaches to addressing SRGBV. The review found that research efforts around SRGBV tend to focus on short-term, local level interventions with limited attention to policies and policy implementation processes. The most promising interventions are multi-layered and address the links between violence, identities, social and cultural norms and intersecting structural inequalities. However, how to sustain and institutionalize work on gender and violence in schools and communities is less known. Most importantly, the review finds that a focus on resources and efforts are needed to build a robust evidence base that supports policy, practice, monitoring and evaluation at all levels. This global review provides a rigorous analysis, perceptive insights and compelling recommendations, making it important reading for those dedicated to ending gender violence in and around schools.
The evidence on policies and practices suggest:
- The most promising approaches involve reflection and consciousness-raising on gender identities, norms and inequalities that shape the risk and experience of sexual violence.
- Single sex groups (e.g., girls’ and boys’ clubs) can provide ‘safe spaces’ for building awareness about gender equality, violence prevention and redress, together with some mixed group sessions – but more work is needed on their sustainability.
- Skilled facilitation is important and can be sustained through well-trained and supported teacher and peer mentors.
- The onus of change can be placed too heavily on girls if work with them is not combined with other forms of intervention.
- Group-work approaches to bullying – including homophobic and cyber bullying, involve reflection on beliefs and stereotypes, recognizing and regulating emotions, and communication and conflict resolution – are more effective when combined with preventive whole school approaches.
- Teachers’ confidence to address SRGBV can be strengthened by supporting their reflection on their own values, beliefs and personal histories; providing curriculum materials and training in strategies to address discrimination and violence; and training in interactive, inclusive pedagogies.
- Interventions with men and boys involving reflection on norms about masculinity, relationship dynamics and livelihoods have reduced partner violence – but more work is needed on their impact on children.