More must be done to combat rape and gender-based violence in schools, child rights organization Plan International has said. The charity is campaigning to make gender-based violence more pressing issue in the global sustainable development agenda.
“School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) was a global phenomenon affecting millions of children and young people around the world,” said Nigel Chapman, CEO of Plan International, in a release issued yesterday in Monrovia,.
“It harms their education and undermines the prospects of achieving gender equality in schools.”
The organization has been working with girls in West Africa, who have experienced rape and other types of gender-based violence while at school.
Aissatou, 15, fell pregnant after her teacher raped her. She said more needed to be done to end such crimes. “I don’t want what happened to me, to happen to others,” she said, according to the release.
“Parents need to stand up for their children and understand that they are going to school to learn. The government should also help students in terms of security, especially in public schools. I don’t want this to happen to any other girl. The only message I have is that schools, especially public schools, need to have more security in place. Some teachers are good, some others not so good.”
In many societies, unequal power relations between adults and children, as well as gender stereotypes and roles, leave girls especially vulnerable to sexual harassment, rape, coercion, exploitation, and discrimination from teachers, staff and peers, Plan International noted.
According to the organization, School-related gender-based violence can occur in any school area or during travel to or from school.
Diara- a 15 year-old girl from Sierra Leone, described to Plan how teachers in her town demand sex for good grades.
“Some teachers will advise you on your education. Others… will always try to have sex with you, or maybe ask you to have sex with them for grades. A safe school for me, as a girl, would be that I wasn’t being harassed by the male teachers, and for the school environment to be properly arranged, and for the teachers to teach well in class.”
Latrines, empty classrooms and corridors are all potential spaces where violence can occur.
Outside school walls, millions of girls and boys are at risk of bullying, rape, unwanted touching, and unprovoked sexual advances in transit to and from school, along walking routes, at bus stops and at taxi stands.
“When I was staying in my village, the distance between my house and school was very far when I went to school,” said Diara.
“I was always late; so one time I was going to school and there was a man standing on the road who said, please come, I have something for you- I have some lunch for you; but when I went there, the man just grabbed me and raped me.”
According to the release, Plan International aims to underline the issue at the World Education Forum in Korea next week.
Chapman said: “At the World Education Forum in Korea next week, the international community will have the opportunity to set out concrete steps to address gender-based violence in and around schools, and ensure that every child can learn without fear.”
“A protective environment for children includes a safe school environment and is the right of every child.” -Edited by George Barpeen