School-Related Gender-Based Violence impedes gender equality

16days_flyer.pngToday marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, coordinated by the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative. This year’s theme, From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All, highlights the need to end school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) and stresses the urgency of ending this debilitating practice now.

In March this year, the GMR jointly released a policy paper with UNGEI that explicitly outlined the effects of SRGBV on education and made recommendations for the future. This policy paper helped lead the march towards UNESCO confirming its first ever resolution on SRGBV: ‘Learning without Fear’. It also heavily influenced the 16 steps that are outlined in the call to action for today’s campaign

srgbv_circlesWhat is School-related gender based violence?

SRGBV is defined as ‘acts or threats of sexual, physical, or psychological violence occurring in and around schools and educational settings as a result of gender norms and stereotypes and unequal power dynamics’.

The phenomenon is far-reaching, affecting an estimated 246 million boys and girls in and around schools every year according to Plan International.

It should not be assumed that SRGBV affects only girls. Boys can be affected too. Evidence suggests girls are at greater risk for sexual violence, harassment and exploitation, perpetuated by male students and teachers. Boys are more likely to experience frequent and severe physical violence and bullying. Both girls and boys can be perpetrators of school-related gender-based violence as well. Boys are more commonly perpetrators of physical bullying, and girls more likely to use verbal or psychological forms of violence. Yet cases are not always clear cut: girls also commit violent acts and boys also experience sexual abuse.

SRGBV prevents children, especially girls, exercising their right to a safe, inclusive and quality education

In addition to physical and psychological trauma, SRGBV contributes to poor school performance, increased drop-out rates, and unsafe and violent school environments.

Analysis of TIMSS 2011 data found that grade 8 students in many countries scored lower in mathematics if they had reported being bullied compared with those who had not. In Jordan, Oman, Palestine and Romania, grade 8 boys who were bullied were the least likely to reach at least a level 1 proficiency in mathematics; in Chile, Ghana and the Islamic Republic of Iran, girls subjected to bullying, on average, performed the poorest. Gender-based violence contributes to girls’ poor performance and dropout. Rape or forced or coerced sex can lead to early and unintended pregnancies and, as a consequence, an increased risk of girls’ education being curtailed.

Conflict leaves a legacy of gender-based violence

Children in conflict-affected countries are at particular risk for gender-based violence. Moreover, the direct and indirect effects of widespread sexual violence can continue long after conflicts end.

In Liberia, for instance, the recently released EFA GMR Gender Report 2015 shows that widespread sexual violence was prevalent during the country’s 14 year civil war and has left a legacy of high levels of crime and gender-based violence. A 2012 study reported 20% of students were abused by teachers. The long-term impact of conflict on SRGBV in this case is shockingly clear with almost 50% of boys and 30% of girls agreeing that sexual abuse and violence were a normal part of relationships.

SRGBV can play on already existing vulnerabilities

Children’s vulnerability to SRGBV increases if they live with a disability, express a sexual orientation different from the mainstream, or are part of an already disadvantaged group. In Thailand, for instance, 56% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students had reported being bullied in the past month.

Poverty, gender inequalities and disability also interact to place girls at particular risk. One survey of 3,706 primary schoolchildren aged 11–14 in Uganda found that double the amount of children with disabilities reported experiencing sexual violence at school than those without.

SRGBV is a global phenomenon

Although much of the research in gender-based violence is based in sub-Saharan Africa, it affects children in both developing and developed countries.  One survey of over 2,000 secondary students across the United States showed over 80% had experienced some form of sexual harassment at school. A recent study in the Netherlands found 27% of students had been sexually harassed by school personnel.


Credit: Hugo Infante/ UNESCO EFA Report

Bullying is one of the most widely documented types of violence in schools. Cyberbullying is also a growing concern. In France, 40% of students reported being victims of cyberbullying and in Zambia, 61% of schoolchildren reported being bullied in the previous month.

Millions more children suffer physical violence at school under the guise of discipline: over one-half of all children live in countries where they have no legal protection from corporal punishment in school.

The new Sustainable Development Agenda gives impetus to finding a solution to SRGBV

Of critical importance is the fact that gender equality is one of the 17 main Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with SRGBV is cited as a barrier to its achievement. To understand what this means, a common, clear and internationally-agreed definition of SRGBV is needed. Research and monitoring on this issue must be strengthened and harmonised. Effective solutions will promote collaboration across multiple sectors and the involvement school leaders, teachers, parents, students and government officials. Governments and local communities must show commitment and leadership on the issue by incorporating it into education policies and action plans. Clubs and associations can empower girls and encourage them to challenge inequalities and different forms of gender discrimination.

Our newly branded 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) out next fall will aim to identify which underlying mechanisms influence gender equality in education in particular, and how these can be addressed. It will also describe education settings that create gender- responsive school environments; promote gender-empowering knowledge, attitudes and transferable skills; address discrimination and gender-based violence; and contribute to healthy life choices, including sexual and reproductive health. The 2016 GEM Report seeks to disentangle the complex links among policies, practices and processes in formal and non-formal education that influence progress towards gender equality.

As this blog makes clear, SRGBV is a complex and multi-faceted issue, encompassing many types of violent acts that can occur within, around and on the way to and from school. It will take longer than 16 days to tackle SRGBV; but, with the increased awareness and knowledge gained from this campaign, and a supportive new SDG agenda, let’s hope the issue gets the place at the centre table it has long deserved.

Posted in Equality, Gender, Human rights, Learning, Out-of-school children, parity, SRGBV, Teachers, violence | 1 Comment

Education can break the bonds of child marriage.

By Marcos Delprato, GMR researcher

The GMR showed in 2013 that there would be 14% fewer child marriages if all girls had primary education. There would be 64% fewer births if they had secondary education. Continuing on this analysis, a study I worked on with a former member of the GMR, Kwame Akyeampong as well as with Ricardo Sabates, Jimena Hernandez-Fernandez shows the flip side of the story – namely, the extent to which a girl child’s education suffers when they are forced to marry early.

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First, let’s look at why and when child marriage occurs. Continue reading

Posted in Africa, Asia, child marriage, Equality, Equity, Gender, Learning | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Education is indispensable in strengthening the bonds that hold communities and societies together.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 12.44.52The GMR is based at UNESCO headquarters in Paris and, while none of the Report team was directly affected by the weekend’s tragic events, a black mark has been left on us all. The impact is felt even more as the attacks follow so swiftly after other acts of ruthless violence affecting innocent people going about their daily lives in Beirut, and in Sharm El-Sheikh.

As a team we are more determined than ever to continue in our work in identifying barriers to progress in global education, and advocating for education’s place in helping to shape more peaceful and inclusive societies. We know that education helps people understand democracy, promotes the tolerance and trust that underpin it, and motivates people to become active inquisitive citizens. We are even more energised to ensure that education’s vital role is recognised, especially in regions and countries where lack of tolerance is associated with violence and conflict.

The GMR 2013/4 showed that education is a key mechanism for promoting greater understanding and mutual respect. In Latin America, the research showed that people with secondary education were less likely than those with primary education to express intolerance by 47% for people of different race, 39% for people of a different religion, 32% in the case of homosexuals and 45% towards those with HIV/AIDS.

In the Arab States, people with secondary education were also less likely than those with only primary education to express intolerance towards people of a different religion.

Gypsy children and Romanian children study together in a school near Bucharest. Credit: UNESCO/PETRUT CALINESCU

Gypsy children and Romanian children study together in a school near Bucharest. Credit: UNESCO/PETRUT CALINESCU

In Central and Eastern Europe, where intolerance towards immigrants is a cause for concern, those with secondary education were 16% less likely than those who had not completed secondary education to express such intolerance.

Education increases the likelihood that citizens will make their voices heard in other ways than violence, such as signing petitions, boycotting products or taking part in peaceful demonstrations. In Turkey, those with a secondary education are twice as likely as those with a primary education to participate in a peaceful demonstration.

Increasing access to school for all generally reduces feelings of injustice in society that have fuelled many conflicts. But it needs to increase equally for all population groups; otherwise, perceived unfairness can reinforce disillusionment and injustice as shown at length by the GMR 2011 Report. Skills need to match market needs or the ‘waithood’ between education and work can boil over into frustration as many believe was the case in the Arab Spring, and as was investigated in the GMR 2012. We must advocate for an education that does not reinforce violence, intolerance and that can help overcome language barriers. Attacks like those this past week should serve as a potent reminder of the depth of importance behind providing a quality education equally and for all. Continue reading

Posted in Adult education, Africa, Arab States, Asia, Basic education, Citizenship, Conflict, Equality, Equity, fragile states, immigration, Marginalization, refugees, school violence, sdg, sdgs, Skills, Sustainable development | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Understanding context in Paraguay to promote gender equality

Yesterday we held a Paris launch for our new report: Gender and EFA 2000-2015: Achievements and challenges. It was well attended by Ministers of Education from Niger, Paraguay, Morocco and Sweden, by the US Ambassador to UNESCO and the Director General, Irina Bokova.

The speech by the Minister of Education and Culture in Paraguay, Ms Marta Fuente, took the spotlight away from a pure focus on girls as so often happens in education discussions, and drew the audience’s attention to the plight of boys. Below we explore the extent of the disadvantages that boys face in the country, and policies the Ministry is putting in place to close the gender gap.


Our Report tells us that Paraguay has achieved equal numbers of girls to boys – parity – in pre-primary education and in youth and adult literacy. There is also almost parity in enrolment in primary education, with 96 girls enrolled for every 100 boys. However, once in school, girls are more likely than boys to stay there longer: in 2011, 86% reached the last grade of primary school compared with 82% of boys. Girls also outperform boys in reading, while gender gaps are narrowing in mathematics.

Continue reading

Posted in Equality, Equity, Gender, Marginalization, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, sdgs | 3 Comments

Education 2030 Framework for Action: let’s get started

FFAby Aaron Benavot and Manos Antoninis

The Education 2030 Framework for Action was adopted today in a high level meeting alongside the 38th UNESCO General Conference. What is this document and what does it mean for our work over the next fifteen years?

What is the Education 2030 Framework for Action?

This framework — painstakingly drafted over many months with input from governments, international agencies, civil society and experts — provides guidance for implementing the education commitments made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at a national, regional and global level. In particular:

  • it aims at mobilizing all countries and partners around Sustainable Education Goal 4 and its targets;
  • it proposes ways of implementing, coordinating, financing and monitoring the new commitments; and
  • it proposes indicative strategies which countries may wish to draw upon in developing their plans, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.

The Education 2030 Framework for Action – Towards Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Lifelong Learning for All succeeds the Dakar Framework for Action – Education for All: Meeting our Collective Commitments, which guided international efforts between 2000 and 2015. While the text may not always manage to inspire, it deftly accommodates the interests of a multiplicity of constituencies involved in repeated layers of consultation. Indeed, it is an extremely valuable snapshot of international consensus on issues of education and development.

Continue reading

Posted in Adult education, Africa, Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Early childhood care and education, Economic growth, Finance, integrated development, Learning, Literacy, Marginalization, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Pre-primary education, Primary school, Report, sdg, sdgs | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Data Revolution for Education 2030

By Jordan Naidoo, Director of Education at UNESCO, and Sylvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).

SDGsThe fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is a global dream about quality education for all children, youth and adults. But this ambitious vision will remain just that – a dream – without a concrete plan and real commitment. We need a data-driven mechanism to ensure that every effort and dollar are targeted to transform the promise of quality education for all into reality.

This week Member States are adopting the Education 2030 Framework for Action in Paris alongside the UNESCO General Conference. To map the way forward, the framework includes a list of 43 thematic indicators, or, ways of measuring progress towards the education SDG. These are proposed by the extended Technical Advisory Group, which was established by UNESCO to develop recommendations for education indicators and to inform and support the work of the Education for All Steering Committee.

We are in a far better place than we were fifteen years ago when countries adopted the Education for All Goals and Millennium Development Goals and then began the process of defining the monitoring indicators. The new Framework for Action is clearly linked to an existing proposal of indicators. This proposal has been the subject of considerable debate and global consultation among Member States, international organizations, academics and civil society over the past 18 months. While this is work in progress, we already have a solid base of information and a strategy to establish the mechanisms needed for effective monitoring.

Continue reading

Posted in Equality, Equity, Learning, Literacy, mdgs, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, parity, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty, Quality of education, sdg, sdgs | 4 Comments

Education cannot wait, and yet it always does

For many years now there have been calls for greater attention to education in crisis situations from a multitude of advocacy organisations and influential spokespeople. Despite this noise, although there have been some indications of progress, there have been no major improvements for children’s education chances in emergencies. It was exciting to hear at the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) annual meetings that have been taking place this week in Geneva, therefore, that 2016 might be a break-through year for the sector. Might this finally be the year that statements get turned into commitments?

A Syrian refugee looks out of a window at Zahi Alsameen school serving as a refugee camp for students and women in Jaramana district, southeast of Damascus, capital of Syria, on May 31, 2014 (Xinhua/Pan Chaoyue)

A Syrian refugee looks out of a window at Zahi Alsameen school serving as a refugee camp for students and women in Jaramana district, southeast of Damascus, Syria, 2014 (Xinhua/Pan Chaoyue)

The global momentum built up this year at the Oslo Education Summit, World Education Forum and the UN General Assembly has created a real urgency to finally position education up on the list of priorities in emergencies. This has resulted in a large amount of activity on the issue planned for 2016:

  • The World Humanitarian Summit offers a great opportunity to have education’s voice heard with a different audience, and to position education centrally in any outcome document produced. Hidden within the synthesis report of the Summit’s global consultation is a target saying that “No one should miss a month of schooling due to conflict or disaster”. This is a target many in the sector would have formulated differently, no doubt, but it is a target nonetheless, and an ambitious one at that. This should be seen as good news for our sector, which has been singled out by having a target assigned to it in the text.
  • The new Sustainable Development Document, Transforming our Worldnames refugees among those vulnerable populations needing to be addressed. The Education 2030: Framework for Action due to be adopted in early November underscores the need to address education in emergency situations. Both policy priorities give rallying calls for us all to use in our work.
  • There is a vast amount of continuing media attention on Syria, and the resulting refugee crisis, within which education is more frequently mentioned than in many emergencies that have hit the press in the past. The convergence between the complexities of this crisis and the scope of the new SDG 4 could open up a conversation where the voices of advocates might finally be heard.
  • There are also three important publications or pieces of research that will help build the arguments for education in crisis, notably the International Commission on Financing of Global Education Opportunity, the work being done by the Overseas Development Institute on the platform for education in crises, and the GEM Report 2016. It will be important for these publications to make the argument for investing in education early – either when conflicts are on the horizon, or immediately after a crisis, rather than waiting for the costly repercussions that arise from leaving it until the development stage.

Continue reading

Posted in Africa, Aid, Conflict, Developed countries, Developing countries, emergencies, Finance, fragile states, Literacy, Out-of-school children, refugees, syria | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments