More must be done to combat rape and gender-based violence in schools, child rights organisation Plan International has said.
The charity is campaigning to make gender-based violence more present in the global sustainable development agenda.
Plan believes it is as a major barrier to allowing girls to finish their education.
“School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is a global phenomenon affecting millions of children and young people around the world,” said Nigel Chapman, CEO of Plan International.
“It harms their education and undermines the prospect of achieving gender equality in schools.”
The organisation 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 says more needs to be done to end such atrocities.
“I don’t want what happened to me, to happen to others,” she said.
“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.
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 they will 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 and 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 and he said, please come, I have something for you.
“He said, ‘I have some lunch for you’. But when I went there the man just grabbed me and raped me.”
Plan 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.”
“Violence in schools – including gender-based violence – has a profound effect on children’s health, education and physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing,” he added.
“It jeopardises the achievement of universal education goals by contributing significantly to pupil under-performance, low attendance and drop-out rates.
“Preventing and addressing school-related gender-based violence is essential in order for all children – boys and girls – to be able to realise their right to education and to learn in a safe and supportive school environment, free from violence or the threat of violence.”
*Girls names have been changed to protect their identities
Plan International is attending the World Education Forum 19-23 May 2015 in Korea to push governments to better consider the needs of girls and boys in the sustainable development goal negotiations.
#Girl4President is the new awareness drive for Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign. Girls have a right to be at the table, whatever table the want that to be. Using the hashtag #Girl4President is a symbolic vote of support for a girl’s right to learn, lead and decide her future.
Founded 75 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world. We work in 51 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations. www.plan-international.org
ABOUT Because I am a Girl:
Because I am a Girl is Plan's campaign to fight gender inequality, promote girls' rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty. Since 2007 Plan has been producing a global report on the State of World’s Girls with a different theme each year.
Further details please contact:
Davinder Kumar, Plan International