What will it take to support education unions to end school-related gender-based violence?
In 2013, UN Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) and Educational International (EI) established a strategic partnership to launch a change process to support a transformation in inequitable gender norms in the education union movement. The initiative put teachers, education personnel and their unions at the forefront of efforts to end SRGBV. At the 2015 World Congress, EI passed a global resolution urging its 400 member unions, comprising a total membership of 32 million education professionals, to support efforts to reduce SRGBV. It was in this context that the project Education Unions Take Action to End SRGBV was launched in January 2016, with the financial support from Global Affairs Canada.
The mission of the SRGBV initiative
To enable teacher unions to develop effective and sustainable approaches to addressing school-related gender violence as it manifests itself in the education system, and in different countries and union contexts.
Working with teacher unions in sub-Saharan Africa to end SRGBV
From 2016 to 2019, the Labour Research Service supported the implementation of the SRGBV initiative in sub-Saharan Africa in collaboration with Gender at Work.
What is SRGBV?
Acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence occurring in and around schools, perpetrated as a result of gender norms and stereotypes, and enforced by unequal power dynamics. SRGBV ranges from bullying, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, non-consensual touching, sexual coercion and assault, rape and corporal punishment.
According to the UNESCO/UNGEI/GMR Policy Paper 17 (2015), SRGBV prevents millions of children and adolescents from exercising their right to a safe, equitable and inclusive quality education;
- 246 million children experience SRGBV every year;
- Over half of all children live in countries where they have no legal protection from corporal punishment;
- Up to 10% of adolescent girls in 40 low and middle-income countries reported forced sexual acts in the previous year
Who is affected?
Students (boys and girls), teachers and education support personnel can be both victims and perpetrators of SRGBV.
Why does SRGBV matter?
- SRGBV is a violation of both the right to quality education and the right to decent working conditions.
- SRGBV is correlated with lower academic achievement.
- SRGBV is a major barrier to the achievement of UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 (on education) Sustainable Development Goal 5 (on gender equality), and AU’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa Objective 5;
9 member organisations of Educational International in Africa.
- South Africa: South African Democratic Teachers Union | National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa
- Zambia: Basic Education Teachers Union of Zambia
- Ethiopia: The Ethiopian Teachers’ Association
- Uganda: Ugandan National Teachers Union
- The Gambia: Gambia Teachers Union
- Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone Teachers Union
- Ghana: Ghana National Association of Teachers
Pillar #1: Enhancing the capacities of the participating EI member organisations to address SRGBV by systematically testing, adapting and disseminating innovative approaches at all levels within union structures.
Pillar #2: Advocacy, policy dialogue and knowledge sharing activities to leverage the participating unions’ engagement with a broad range of actors and stakeholders at the national, regional and global levels.
The participating unions have created a union profile that outlines the key strategies and actions for addressing SRGBV. Each union has financed work to address SRGBV.
Most of the participating unions have integrated measures to address SRGBV into key union policies, annual work plans and accountability mechanisms.
752 union staff and members directly participated in the project’s processes and related activities;
103,857 union staff and members (8% of the total membership of participating unions) indirectly participated in the project’s processes and related activities;
50% of change team members in the participating unions reported improved attitudes and beliefs about gender equality, gender norms, and the power relations that produce and perpetuate SRGBV;
46% of change team members reported increased skills to adapt and apply good practice knowledge to combat SRGBV;
Increase in knowledge of effective approaches to working with union members and school communities to address SRGBV among change team members throughout the project;
Change team members are equipped with new knowledge and skills, have a strong voice in their unions and act as champions in their unions, schools and communities to design and promote activities to combat SRGBV;
Participating unions engaged in awareness-raising in schools and communities, including radio and television broadcasts and on social media, influenced policies of national and regional governments, and increased women’s leadership within the union;
Several unions influenced the wider policy environment by updating and disseminating national codes of conduct, enhancing the role of guidance counsellors or adopting provisions to protect children who report cases of SRGBV;
The high-level engagement of union leadership throughout the project implementation indicates that the actions and momentum that has started amongst individuals, unions, and networks, will be sustained beyond the end of the SRGBV project.
- Resolution on SRGBV adopted by the 7th EI World Congress (2015)
- Resolution on SRGBV adopted by the 9th EI Africa Regional Conference (2018)
- Resolution on Corporal Punishment adopted by the 8th EI World Congress (2019)
- Resolution on Eliminating All Forms of Sexual Harassment & Sexual Violence within Education Unions adopted by the 8th EI World Congress (2019)
EI Structures and member organisations
- Progress on the project is regularly reported to the EI Status of Women Committee;
- SRGBV is a priority for EI’s sub-regional and regional African women’s networks - each of the four sub-regional women’s networks organised sessions on SRGBV as part of their annual meetings during the project. Since 2019, Gender Coordinators must include updates about their unions’ work on SRGBV when presenting their gender progress reports at the annual meetings of the sub-regional women’s networks;
- A total of 129 EI member organisations across all regions are involved in work to prevent and respond to SRGBV.
- EI continues to actively participate in the Global Working Group to End SRGBV;
- Unions participating in the project have joined other stakeholders in the Global Working Group to discuss strategies and approaches to addressing SRGBV in global Learning Symposiums and similar regional events.
- Strategies to end SRGBV: The experience of education unions in Africa
- Working to end SRGBV: Writings by representatives of education unions from Eastern, West and Southern Africa
- Video: Education Unions Take Action to End SRGBV
- Union profiles
Stories by SRGBV project participants
> Learning through reflection is an act of human struggle | Nosipho Twala (LRS)
> Marriage made not in heaven | Alieu Deen-Conteh (Sierra Leone Teachers Union)
> The death sentence of being a girl child in the Gambia | Ebrima Sajaw (Gambia Teachers Union)
> The role of teachers in preventing gender-based violence in schools | Tshwanelo Mmutlana (National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa)
> View more stories here