The following information is part of the Irish Consortium on Gender-Base Violence policy brief. Click here for the full doc. World Vision Ireland’s work on School-Related Gender-Based Violence is funded by Irish Aid.
A shocking 246 million girls and boys experience some form of school-related violence every year, across the globe. Girls are disproportionately affected by sexual and gender-based violence. Young girls experience GBV on their journey to and from school. Oftentimes, in the developing world, girls who fall pregnant due to rape are cruelly and unjustly expelled from school.
School-related gender based violence is defined as ‘any act or threat of physical, sexual or psychological violence occurring in or around schools, committed based on gender, gender stereotypes or perceived gender identity and enforced by power dynamics’. SRGBV presents a major risk to girls, in accessing safe, quality education.
SRGBV can be inflicted by fellow students, teachers, school staff or community members. The key root causes include gender discriminatory norms, social norms and wider structural and contextual factors (see Figure 2). SRGBV is an extreme abuse of power and control, especially when it is inflicted by the very individuals and institutions that are tasked with empowering girls and advancing gender equality and equal opportunity through education. Sexual violence, rape, forced pregnancy or STI transmission can also lead to school dropout or unfair school expulsion.
“Girls used to miss classes for a whole week during their period,” Hamd Ahmed Said, World Vision Gender and Protection Officer, said. “Some girls would drop out of school because of lack of support and stigma. They lacked the confidence to return to school at the end of the menstrual cycle. They always felt that the boys and some male teachers would taunt them.”
World Vision Ireland’s Education and Protection programme works to create a girl-friendly environment in schools in Puntland
Girls in Somalia are more likely than boys to repeat years in school. This is because of many reasons, including managing their menstrual hygiene. If girls do not have access to safe, sex-segregated latrines at school when they have their periods, they may be absent from school or, sadly, even drop out altogether.
World Vision Ireland’s Protection and Education Programme in Puntland, Somalia takes a multiple-stakeholder approach to providing a girl friendly and gender supportive learning environment, and this is seen as a key tool for combatting SRGBV.
Within World Vision Ireland's Education and Protection programme, there were activities on menstrual hygiene management. At one school in Mareeya in the Eyl district, separate latrines were built for girls and boys and a 5,000-litre water tank was installed. The scarcity of available water throughout the year still poses an ongoing challenge. Some schools rely on trucking in water and there is an awareness that without adequate access to latrines, girls may not be able to go to school at the time of menstruation. This challenge requires close monitoring to ensure that the positive progress on girls attending schools can be maintained.
Along with providing infrastructural projects, World Vision Ireland is working with multiple other stakeholders to ensure that schools are safe. This includes working with adolescent girls on activities such as making reusable sanitary towels, to ensure that girls will have the necessary supplies for menstruation. Teachers have also had training on topics including menstruation and gender based violence, and the community has been engaged via Community Education Committees (CECs).
This broader engagement of teachers, school actors and the community was essential because of the taboos around GBV and menstruation. Involving CECs in the discussions around providing a girl friendly learning environment was not always easy, as they are predominantly made up of men, but raising awareness on the link between school attendance and MHM specifically was an entry point, as education in Puntland, Somalia is highly valued among the community. Engagement with CECs and the wider local government on the links between infrastructure, MHM and reducing SRGBV was a key success of World Vision Ireland’s Education and Protection programme. Abdirahman Abdullahi, (GBV Technical Adviser, Ministry of Women’s Development and Family Affairs) said that in partnership with World Vision, “We have conducted massive campaigns against GBV. Menstrual kits are very important (in this).”
World Vision Ireland will continue to work tirelessly around the clock to improve gender-based violence in the developing world, to protect the rights of women and children, and to help create a more equal society and world. Thank you to our donors and supporters, who make this all possible!
When women rise, we all rise.