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Resolution Condemns School-Related Gender-Based Violence   
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Nana Oye Lithur
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School- related gender-based violence (GBV) can be defined as when a person is violent towards someone because they are a boy or a girl or when violence is experienced differently between boys and girls. Gender-based violence in a school setting can be between students or between teachers or other staff and students.

Recently, 58 countries signed up to the first ever UN resolution on school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV), “Learning without fear,” during UNESCO’s Executive Board meeting. 

 The new resolution invites UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) and its member states to condemn gender-based violence in all its forms and manifestations; to design and implement national policies and action plans; and to promote the creation of safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all boys and girls. 

Road map
The decision also invites the Director-General to submit to the next Executive Board a road map to better combat school-related gender-based violence.

This resolution was proposed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. The ministry, along with UNESCO and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), set up an International Working Group of 30 UN agencies, governments, development agencies, civil society and research organisations to address the issue in April 2014, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). 

In March, for International Women’s Day, UNGEI, UNESCO and the EFA Global Monitoring Report produced a new paper showing that SRGBV has serious consequences for children’s health and well-being and negatively impacts learning, school attendance and school completion.

The paper called for a consensus on how SRGBV should be understood and addressed. It formed the basis of a call by H.E. Ms Annick Girardin, the French Secretary of State for Development and the Francophonie of France, for a decision on school-related gender-based violence during the Executive Board meeting of UNESCO. 

The joint paper showed that adolescent girls were particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, harassment and exploitation, including in and around school settings. 

Data in low, middle- income countries
Data shows that 10 per cent of adolescent girls in low and middle- income countries reported incidents of forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts in the previous year, and a national survey in South Africa showed that almost eight per cent of all secondary school girls have experienced severe sexual assault or rape while at school.

SRGBV is a global phenomenon. A study in the Netherlands found that 27 per cent of students had been sexually harassed by school personnel. A study in the United Kingdom showed a third of 16-18-year-olds faced unwanted sexual touching in school.

While studies on sexual violence showed a greater prevalence among girls, recent research into SRGBV has revealed that boys are also at risk. One study in Thailand showed that 12 per cent of both girls and boys reported experiencing sexual violence while at school. 

Children in conflict and emergency settings, and those from marginalised groups are particularly at risk of SRGBV.

In Ghana, the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) has done intensive research including conducting interviews with students and teachers in various regions of the country to better understand the issue. 

Strategic framework
The organisation is also developing a strategic framework on how to deal with gender-based violence. HRAC is also working on flyers for students and teachers on gender-based violence which include information on who students should report to if they fall victim to GBV.

Ms Annick Girardin, said: “France has been mobilising efforts around school-related gender-based violence in accordance with its commitments to gender equality and education for all. UNESCO has a key role to play in ensuring learning spaces that are free of violence and are gender friendly. We are delighted in the large support base for this new resolution, which marks an important step in the recognition of this unknown global phenomenon and will be actively following up on the commitments made.”
Source: Daily Graphic

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