Are Schools Safe and Equal Places for Girls and Boys in Asia?
Research Findings on School-Related Gender-Based Violence
In April 2013, the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) highlighted the limited data and research on the nature and manifestations, scale and consequences of SRGBV at the global level; as well as limited compilation of evidence on programme and policy approaches to tackle this issue. As a response, Plan decided to conduct research in five countries in Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam) as part of its innovative Promoting Equality and Safety in Schools (PEASS) programme. Plan, together with the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW), embarked on this ambitious research project aimed at:•
- assessing the magnitude and nature, response and reporting of different forms of SRGBV, both in school and on the way to school/ around school, and what encourages or impedes this response;
- understanding the perceptions of adults (parents, school authorities) towards SRGBV and the mechanisms to report and respond to it; and
- recommending an overall programmatic framework for addressing SRGBV, including key strategies and indicators for measurement.
This report summarises the main findings from the research and gives an overview of the programmatic framework and strategies which Plan will adopt to address SRGBV within the region and contribute to making education systems in Asia gender responsive with zero-tolerance to SRGBV.
At the outset, a desk-based review of legislative policies and programmes related to SRGBV, including those being implemented by Plan, was undertaken in each of the five countries. This was followed by the primary data collection phase that took place between October 2013 and March 2014, in which data was collected from over 9,000 students (both girls and boys aged 12 to 17) studying in grades 6 to 8 and a range of relevant stakeholders, including teachers, headmasters, parents and representatives of NGOs/CBOs.
The sites for each country, schools and grades were selected in consultation with Plan Country Offices (COs), provincial and district authorities. The sites included Hanoi (Vietnam), Siem Reap (Cambodia), Sunsari district (Nepal), Umerkot district (Pakistan), and Jakarta City and Serang district (Indonesia).
This study used a quasi-experimental design with a mixed method of data collection. The tools included a self-administered questionnaire for students (approximately 1,500 questionnaires from 30 schools in each country), Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with students to create school safety maps using participatory tools such as open ended stories; Plan's developed and widely used School Equality Scorecard in select schools; FGDs with teachers and parents; and Key Informant Interviews with Principals.
The research has found that students' inequitable gender attitudes are a main driver of SRGBV, with boys having more regressive gender attitudes than girls. The high prevalence of violence in schools and at home (including emotional violence) makes students feel unsafe and increases the likelihood of their perpetration of violence. When analyzing the situation in schools, the research findings highlight that violence is perpetrated by both peers and teaching/non-teaching staff. The research also found that bystander intervention is low, indicating the normalization of violence as an accepted way to discipline students or resolve conflict amongst peers. The reporting of violence to duty bearers is low due to fear of repercussions and lack of coherent response mechanisms.
Research findings point to the need for focusing on gender equality in education and the need for a multi-level approach addressing barriers at the individual, community, school and policy levels if we are to tackle SRGBV in a sustainable way. Programming to achieve gender equality and prevent gender-based violence is as much about empowering girls as it is about redefining masculinity and ideas of manhood. School focused efforts must be accompanied by policy and advocacy as well as community-based awareness building.