Addressing gender-based violence through education

Women and girls today are at an alarming risk of violence in almost every space—at school and work, in the home and community, and even online. All of these have physical, psychological and social consequences.

Education has been shown to have a largely positive impact on reducing gender-based violence. Women with at least a secondary-level education are not as likely as their less-educated peers to experience violence. In addition, men with at least secondary education are not as likely as their less-educated peers to perpetrate violence.

Zonta believes education has the power to save and improve the lives of women and girls, which leads to healthier families and stronger communities. Through our international service projects, Zonta International is working to end gender-based violence (GBV) and bring education to women and girls in 16 countries.

How do we do this?

We empower adolescent girls.

Adolescents, especially girls, must be empowered to speak up for their rights and develop the self-confidence and autonomy needed to take control of their bodies and lives. In Peru, adolescents (ages 12-17) constitute 11.2% of the population or 3.5 million people.

Until recently, UNICEF’s program interventions for children focused on younger age groups, while services for adults are not designed to cater to the distinct needs of adolescents. For the next two years, Zonta is partnering with UNICEF USA for the Adolescent Girls’ Health and Protection program in Peru to improve the capacity of services to respond to the health needs of adolescents—especially girls—promptly and address all types of violence in schools, especially gender-based violence, in a timely manner.

A total of 31,082 adolescents (approximately 15,230 girls), health personnel from 10 health care establishments, education personnel from 24 schools, families, and community members will be served over the two years of the project. The program will also train 72 principals and teachers to recognize violence and implement violence response protocols using reporting mechanisms.

We partner with experts to coordinate and improve responses to gender-based violence.

Despite growing awareness of GBV as a life-threatening violation of human rights, poor quality of services and lack of coordination among multiple response sectors have been a major impediment for an effective response to GBV in Asia and the Pacific region.

Partnering with UNFPA for a project in two countries in the region with the highest level of lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence–Papua New Guinea (PNG) (68%) and Timor-Leste (59%)—Zonta is working to ensure that all women and girls live free from violence and that those women and girls who experience violence can access quality services essential to their long-term recovery.

Although GBV is considered a critical public health and clinical care issue, the vital role that the health system and healthcare providers can play in terms of identification, assessment, treatment, crisis intervention, documentation, referral, and follow-up is often poorly understood or accepted within national health programs and policies.

Therefore, UNFPA will coordinate with existing tertiary educational institutions to provide technical assistance for the development of teaching aid materials to integrate content about the identification of, response to and referral of GBV. Between the two countries, the project will serve approximately 518,417 beneficiaries over the next two years.

We ensure girls are able to stay in school.

In Madagascar, one in four children aged 6-10 does not attend primary school, and one in three children aged 11-14 does not attend lower secondary school. Since 2016, Zonta has partnered with UNICEF USA for the Let Us Learn Madagascar program to ensure that more children, particularly girls, have access to post-primary education and stay in school and that Madagascar’s education system can offer quality teaching for enhanced learning outcomes.

In addition to building schools, training teachers and providing alternative education to out-of-school children so they can catch up and reintegrate into the formal school system, the program also addresses the issue of violence in schools and the interlinkages between violence in communities and schools through child protection activities, supports the adoption of a code of conduct against violence at the district level, and strengthens the referral and intake services for children who are victims of violence, both in schools and in the community.

Since Zonta began supporting Let Us Learn, 72,000 students (36,585 girls) learned in classes facilitated by more than 3,000 newly trained teachers, 88 children’s clubs were established to promote children’s rights in lower secondary schools, and 937 out-of-school children benefited from catch-up classes and returned to school. A total of 45,214 children (52% girls) will benefit from the program over the next two years.

We work to end child marriage.

Girls with no education are three times as likely as those with secondary education to marry by age 18. Early marriage is associated with a higher risk of intimate partner violence and social isolation. The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage, which Zonta has supported since 2018, was designed to address the issue over 15 years from 2015 through 2030.

Through the program, Zonta is engaging adolescent girls as key agents of change in 12 countries with a high prevalence of child marriage. In the first phase of the program, 8.7 million girls were reached,

8,000 schools improved the quality of girls’ education and 46,000 service delivery points have improved services for adolescent girls.

The goal of the second phase is to elevate the voice and agency of adolescent girls, increase resources and opportunities for adolescent girls and their families, including girls’ access to education and healthcare services, and enhance legal and political action to prevent child marriage and to support married, divorced or widowed adolescent girls.

Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that must be stopped. Though it is just one piece of the puzzle, returning children to classrooms and educating them on their rights is taking a step toward ending this human rights violation.

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24 NOVEMBER 2020