November 25, 2023
In a world where 1 out of 3 women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence, where, every hour, five women are killed by someone in their own family and where evidence indicates that sexual harassment is alarmingly widespread, it is of extreme importance for the global community to take action. Broken Chalk recognises the urgent need to address the pervasive issue of gender-based violence, which also is reflected in educational contexts. In schools, sexual harassment and psychological bullying are a widespread reality; girls are impeded from following education because of child marriage and violence in their own homes and on their way to school.
Exacerbated by the compounding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, economic crises, and political instability, this violence has a direct impact on their education, which hinders their enjoyment of human rights. The risks of violence discourage parents from sending girls to school, particularly in conflict situations, where during their journey to school, they fear the possibility of assault and abduction. It is empirically proven that victims of abuse have much higher rates of dropout and learning difficulties. This poses a serious threat to gender equality and the empowerment of upcoming generations of women.
Within this scenario, it is disheartening to observe the fact that only 0.2% of Global Official Development Assistance is directed toward gender-based violence prevention. Hence, Broken Chalk acknowledges that the impact of violence against women and girls (VAWG) is profound and extends beyond physical harm to affect the very foundations of society, hindering equality, development, and peace.
VAWG has a cost on society in general and girls’ education in particular, hence it remains an educational priority. Firstly, exposure to intimate partner violence, or domestic violence, has documented negative effects on children’s academic performance and behavioural outcomes. UNICEF reports it is linked with lower vocabulary and numeracy skills at ages 5 to 8. Secondly, violence against women constitutes one of the factors why girls cannot access education: worldwide, 129 million girls are out of school. Personal insecurity at school or social stigma and shame after experiencing sexual violence partly explain this. Girls and women who experience psychological violence might also be out of school as a result of the coercion on them.
Broken Chalk also recognises the pervasiveness of harassment as a form of violence against women. In the European Union, 45 to 55% of women have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15. In England and Wales, an inquiry in 2021 revealed that 92% of female students affirmed receiving sexist name-calling from their school peers, and 61% of female students reported experiencing peer-on-peer sexual harassment in school. The potential threat of experiencing violence at school or on the way to school might disincentivise girls from attending education. In order to provide a response to this, several countries like Ghana and India have experimented with programs that provide bicycles to girls to provide a safer transport option to get to school.
Although work has been put into eliminating VAWG, the above facts show that much more work is needed. Broken Chalk believes that education is crucial to work towards the elimination of VAWG, as many studies have shown that it is precisely in the educational environment where children are exposed to violence and are taught it. Therefore, education is a powerful tool that can be used to shift the culture which teaches young and impressionable minds how to behave towards girls and women in violent ways into more peaceful and respectful manners. Furthermore, education can be used to teach girls and raise awareness of what constitutes violence, something which many girls cannot even begin to grasp. In this way, VAWG is so normalised globally that victims sometimes do not even realise their rights are being violated, which plays a part in less than 40% of women who experience violence seeking help of any sort or reporting it and finding justice.
For this reason, Broken Chalk joins the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual international campaign starting on the 25th of November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and lasting until Human Rights Day on December 10th. This year’s campaign theme is “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls”, and Broken Chalk joins the movement and calls for urgent investments to prevent VAWG, with a special focus on education to do so. Moreover, Broken Chalk calls for taking on an intersectional perspective in work put into the eradication of VAWG, especially for understanding the extra difficulties and attacks women of colour and LGTBQ+ women face both in their education and everyday lives.
Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.
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