Collaborative efforts and partnerships are key in ensuring that interventions aimed at creating safe learning spaces for young people become effective.
This was echoed by delegates attending an orientation workshop hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Regional Office for Southern Africa (UNESCO- ROSA) on the Global Guidance to end School-Related Gender-Based Violence (SRGBV) in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Speaking at workshop, the Executive Director of Southern Africa AIDS Trust (SAT), Mr. Jonathan Gunthrop noted that the implementation of the Global Guidance in Eastern and Southern Africa relied upon support mechanisms for the school and the community where young people are experiencing various forms of gender based violence cascades.
Echoing the same sentiments, UNESCO Regional HIV and Health Education Advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa Dr. Patricia Machawira urged all country teams to work together to come up with sound interventions to end School-Related Gender-Based Violence and Early Unintended Pregnancies by ensuring the Global Guidance is localised and understood at country level. She also reiterated the need to have data informed responses and sustainable interventions.
The workshop which ran from 20th to 22nd March 2017 was attended by gender focal points in the Ministries of education, civil society and UN agencies from 12 Eastern and Southern Africa countries and unpacked the Global Guidance to end School Related Gender based Violence with specific focus on the Eastern and Southern African region. It also capacitated country teams to effectively deal with SRGBV and identify the linkage between School-Related Gender-Based Violence and Early and Unintended Pregnancies (EUP).
With support from the Senior Programme Specialist in the UNESCO Headquarters Section for Health and Education, Ms. Joanna Herat, the participants were given the overview of the Global Guidance narrowing into the Eastern and Southern African context exploring where School-Related Gender-Based Violence happens, who the victims are and the consequences they face.
The session presented statistics gathered from studies conducted in Eastern and Southern Africa which clearly highlight that School-Related Gender-Based Violence is present in African societies.In one of the studies cited which was carried out in Eastern and Southern Africa in 2009, 41% of head teachers acknowledged that sexual harassment occurred between pupils in their schools. 39% of the same head teachers reported that teacher to pupil harassment had occurred in their schools. Also in South Africa, 8% of secondary school girls had experienced several sexual assault or rape in the previous year whilst at school.
Cyber bullying stemmed out as a recent and emerging form of harassment that Africa is experiencing due to the growth of the Information and Communication Technologies, thus affecting young people within and outside the school environment. Calls to prioritise capacity building of learners on internet security were made.
Adopting a participatory nature, the workshop accorded the country teams and representatives of the civil society to share their country situational analysis relating to existing data on School-Related Gender-Based Violence, current interventions in place and priority areas of focus to address School-Related Gender-Based Violence and early and unintended pregnancies.
Some of the interventions that were discussed at length during the workshop which require scaling up and refinement included the Determined, Resilient, Empowered AIDS Free Mentored and Safe Girls Project (DREAMS) that seeks to empower the girl child by facilitating their stay in school; Sista 2 Sista; and boys and girls empowerment clubs.
From the workshop, country teams drafted action plans to address SRGBV and EUP with some of the priorities being building the capacity of teachers and students on reporting and referral systems, mainstreaming of SRGBV with other topics being taught under life skills, creation and finalising of National Gender Based Violence frameworks.
The Global Guidance on SRGBV can be accessed on: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002466/246651E.pdf
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