Addressing School-Related Gender-Based Violence is Critical for Safe Learning Environments in Refugee Contexts
Crises, conflict and displacement lead to heightened insecurities – physical, psychological, social and financial -- for affected populations including refugees. The breakdown of family and community support systems and high levels of stress and trauma magnify pre-existing levels of violence and conflict within families and in schools. That there is a rise in sexual and gender-based violence in conflict situations is undisputed. Reports of gender-based violence emerge in the aftermath as systems for reporting and response get established as part of a humanitarian response. Yet data required to produce global estimates is limited.
Within the learning environment, refugee and displaced students are often targets of verbal and physical violence and discrimination because of their status as refugees, in addition to their gender, language, religion, race and ethnicity, nationality and/or being older than other children in their class.
Safe learning spaces can reinforce principles of gender equality and promote positive gender and social norms that teach girls and boys to develop and practice non-violent coping mechanisms. However, safety within learning spaces cannot be taken for granted in stressed and crisis affected contexts. Careful attention needs to be placed on preventing gender-based violence when designing learning environments for refugee children and adolescents.