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New resource to help end school-related gender-based violence
by Joanna Herat
UNESCO Team Leader in Health and Education
Dec. 2019
“Boys often mock girls and say vulgarities to them and pull their skirts up. It happened just yesterday during break. It happens every day. It was not hurting physically but I was ashamed.”
This experience of a child in Kazakhstan is all too common in schools and learning environments across the globe. From psychological abuse, to physical violence or sexual harassment, school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) comes in a myriad of forms and affects children in every region and country.
UNESCO and the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI), together with the Global Working Group to End School-Related Violence, has released a series of thematic briefs on the issue, outlining how to best prevent and respond to SRGBV.
The briefs have been published together with other partners working to end school violence, including Safe to Learn and the Global Partnership for Education. The briefs look at the challenges and recommendations in dealing with SRGBV, and aim to help practitioners and policy makers apply a gender lens when developing violence prevention and response approaches.
UNESCO Team Leader in Health and Education, Joanna Herat, said SRGBV violates children’s fundamental human rights and is a form of gender discrimination.
“School-related gender-based violence affects millions of children in and around schools every year, and girls are particularly vulnerable. There are significant negative impacts on health and well-being, but beyond that, it also leads to poorer learning outcomes and higher rates of school dropouts,” Ms Herat said.
“This series of thematic briefs should become a valuable resource for those working to end all forms of violence in school, with a particular focus on gender-based violence. They provide solid guidance as to what really works to prevent and address violence, from properly engaging teachers, and involving the whole school community, to examining the curriculum and improving monitoring and data.”
The series includes: Applying a whole school approach to preventing SRGBV; Engaging teachers to create safe and gender-responsive learning environments; Shifting harmful gender norms through curricular approaches; Establishing safe and confidential reporting mechanisms; Investing in data and evidence to inform the response to SRGBV; and Integrating SRGBV into national policies and education sector plans.
The release of the thematic briefs follows the 16 days of activism against school-related gender-based violence, which this year explored a whole school approach to tackling SRGBV, and culminated on Human Rights Day on December 10, with an open letter appeal to countries of the world to end the violence.
SRGBV refers to 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.
Violence in schools is widespread and discriminatory gender norms are one of the key driving factors. As with all forms of violence, SRGBV violates children’s rights and is a significant barrier for girls’ and boys’ access to and participation in education.
The thematic briefs synthesize the latest learning and evidence from regional learning symposia on how best to prevent and address SRGBV.
* Reporting on Violence against Women and Girls: this handbook is a resource for media professionals from across the world with the intention to stimulate reflections on current reporting practices, provide information and promote and improve ethical coverage of gender-based violence.
“Addressing gender-based violence means addressing a subject that concerns humanity. Reflecting on biased representations, stereotypes, prejudices and violence against girls and women means enacting change so that, at last, this violence is covered by the media in a way that fully reflects the concerns of our societies. Journalists can help to break the silence and lift this issue out from the private sphere, where it is still too often relegated.”
The handbook is intended to be an informative and practical resource for media professionals on how to report on gender-based violence. the handbook features specific information on 10 selected topics relative to Violence against Women & Girls, and offers general recommendations for ethical journalistic practice in reporting on gender-based violence.
The first chapter provides basic knowledge and references on 10 thematic areas:
Cyberbullying and online harassment of women journalists; Early marriages or child marriages; Female genital mutilation/cutting; Forced marriages; Gender-specific foeticide and infanticide; Sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape; So-called ‘honour’ crimes; Trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants; Violence against women in conflicts; Violence by an intimate partner or ex-partner and domestic murders.

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Women are the greatest victims of corruption
by Frank Vogl
PassBlue, International Association of Women Judges
Dec. 2019
For more than a year, a BBC television team went undercover at the University of Lagos and the University of Ghana, where young female students are routinely extorted by professors. They are vulnerable because they either seek to gain admission to the universities or to secure good grades to allow them to continue their studies. The girls are not extorted for cash but for sex.
The resulting “Eye on Africa” documentary is deeply disturbing, but young women — not just in West Africa — but in scores of countries, are routinely “extorted.” It is the worst form of corruption and the hardest to expose and curb.
Many years ago, I heard Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister, give a lecture in Washington, where she told the story of Rose, a 21-year-old university student in Nigeria:
“Rose, from a poor rural family, could not purchase the series of class notes sold by her lecturer to students as part of the reading material for her class. The lecturer, who used these monies to supplement his income, noticed that Rose was not purchasing the notes and penalized her through low grades for her work. When she explained that she couldn’t pay, she was asked to make up with other favors, which she refused. The failing grade she was given was instrumental in her withdrawal from the university, which put an end to her higher education. An individual and an entire family lost their hope and pathway to escape poverty.
When I followed up on this story, I found that it was by no means an isolated case. It was part of a systemic rot that had befallen what had once been a very good tertiary education system in Nigeria.”
How do we define “sextortion”? The International Association of Women Judges has long sought to draw more global attention to these issues. It notes: “To constitute sextortion, there must also be a corruption component: The perpetrator must abuse his position of authority by endeavoring to exact, or by accepting, a sexual favor in exchange for exercise of the power entrusted to him.
Sextortion involves both official corruption and corruption in the broader sense of the word: people who exercise the authority entrusted to them for personal benefit rather than with the integrity, fairness, and impartiality expected of their position.”
While the media in the United States and Britain provided widespread coverage to the alleged sex crimes of prominent individuals as part of the #MeToo movement — the reality is that it is an absolutely enormous global crime against humanity. So why has it not secured the attention that it clearly deserves?
A major reason is the lack of detailed data. Foreign-aid agencies want data to justify their expenditures and to track results. Sextortion does not fit into this box: most victims do not, and cannot, report. Most fear retaliation. Many of them live in countries and cultures that would disrespect them for seeking to report sex crimes. Most victims have nowhere to turn.
For the first time, the anticorruption group, Transparency International, included a question about sextortion in one of its global surveys. The recently published TI Latin America Barometer found that one in five citizens experiences sexual extortion when accessing a government service or knows someone who has. The new TI Middle East & North Africa Barometer showed exactly the same deeply troubling level for citizens in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine.
The scale of the problem has shocked researchers at Transparency International, who plan to include sextortion questions in additional regional surveys of corruption across the world.
There are more than 26 million people trafficked by criminal gangs every year, mostly women. They, too, are highly vulnerable to sextortion and have absolutely no recourse — no means to report the abuse.
While the victims are mostly female, this is not exclusively the case. There are many stories of young boys being victimized by sexual abusers, and information on such crimes is even harder to obtain than stories about women that surface on African college campuses as well as information from experts who track human trafficking and research on the plight of the world’s refugees.
Millions of poor female refugees, traveling north from Central America, or north from Africa’s Sahel, or in other regions of the world, are extremely vulnerable to sexual demands. I spoke some time ago with Dr. Yoojin Choi at the International Anti-Corruption Academy in Vienna, whose research shows that migrants are exposed to sextortion, for example, as a payment to border- and custom-control services for illegal movement of persons; as front persons in financial transactions between groups of refugees and agents who serve as guides; and, in many situations, where they are forced into unregulated working conditions.
Extensive experience over many years with development programs pursued by the Washington-based Partnership for Transparency Fund (of which I am a founding member) — from training lawyers on gender-based crime, to working with women’s groups to counter abuses resulting from many forms of corruption — prove that time and again, women are the greatest victims of corruption. Anecdotal information from many advisory centers run by Transparency International’s national chapters supports this assertion and highlight cases of sextortion.
Take the following story that I learned some years ago from a national chapter in Lebanon: Hoda, a lab technician in Tripoli, went to the regional governor’s office to renew her work contract with a municipal laboratory. She hoped he would sign her contract-renewal form, but instead proceeded to sexually harass her — verbally and physically. Hoda said she fled, but found she had no choice other than to return, so this time she took her cellphone and clicked on the video camera. Eventually, this courageous woman released her video online and filed a complaint. The governor resigned his office and claimed his decision had nothing to do with Hoda’s allegations.
The story was the start of the chapter’s projects to engage women leaders to campaign for anticorruption actions to support women’s rights.
We need far more of these kinds of campaigns and far more global media attention on the daily acts of sextortion that rarely, if ever, make the headlines but that wreck the lives of so many people.


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