From Malala Yousafzai to the Chibok girls, stories of girls who sought to pursue an education – and experienced violence at the hands of extremists as a result – are all too common. And the stories of violence we hear about pale in comparison to those that don’t get as much media attention – stories of millions of girls worldwide who are harassed or face threats every day on their commute to school, or those whose teachers or classmates are violent toward them.
Every single one of these incidents threatens girls’ right to education. ONE has been focused on enabling girls worldwide to complete a full 12 years of quality education, and that will be impossible without tackling gender-based violence (GBV) – one of the barriers that prevents girls from accessing and learning while in school. During this year’s 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence, we’re taking a look at the intersection of GBV and girls’ education – both the barriers that need to be broken and the opportunities that education offers girls to avoid a life filled with violence.
Violence can act as a deterrent for parents to send their daughters to school, as they fear risks to their safety that are unfortunately not misplaced. According to the Global Terrorism Database, attacks on schools increased 17-fold between 2000 and 2014, and girls’ schools were targeted three times more often than boys’ schools.
Violence also extends far beyond extremist attacks. As UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova explains, “For millions of children and young people across the world, the school environment is not the safe and supportive place it should be. Instead, school days are marred by gender-based violence, which includes bullying, verbal and sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and corporal punishment. Girls are particularly vulnerable.”
At the same time, getting girls into school can lower their chances of experiencing violence later in life. In many countries, girls out of school are more likely to become child brides, more vulnerable to diseases like HIV and more likely to die young. With World AIDS Day just around the corner, knowing that out-of-school girls are more vulnerable to HIV is particularly poignant.
Societies in which girls are educated are also less likely to experience violent conflict. A review of data over the past 50 years found that gender equality in years of schooling is key. Greater equality between boys’ and girls’ education levels can decrease the likelihood of conflict by as much as 37 percent.
To get all girls in school and learning, GBV must be combatted. UNESCO and UN Women have released Global Guidance on Addressing School-Related Gender-Based Violence, which aims to help ministries of education and education stakeholders better understand GBV, work to prevent it, and respond effectively when it occurs.
The Global Partnership for Education is also currently working to reduce school-related GBV by building the evidence base on its specific forms and what works to decrease it. In Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, and Zambia, GPE is training teachers and civil society leaders, launching awareness-raising campaigns, and holding policy dialogue workshops — all with the aim of decreasing GBV.
To support the Global Partnership for Education – including in its fight to end school-related gender-based violence – sign our petition here.