How to Integrate Violence Against Women Prevention, Response in Education

High school students in Dili, Timor-Leste.
High school students in Dili, Timor-Leste.

By Laurence Levaque

A quick reference for education specialists to address violence against women and girls in their efforts to ensure safe schools.

As part of ADB’s support for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Global Campaign, here is a quick reference for education specialists to address violence against women and girls (VAWG) in their efforts to ensure safe schools.

Education can play a key role in preventing VAWG by challenging social norms that support male authority and control over women and transforming knowledge, attitudes and behavior related to gender and VAWG. At the same time, it is essential for education projects to ensure the safety of women and girls within and around educational institutions, and thus include measures for preventing and dealing with VAWG – particularly sexual harassment and violence. 

Parents may be reluctant to enroll their daughters in school because they are concerned about the risk of them being exposed to violence, and victimization by teachers or peers may make girls afraid to go to school and reduce their school participation and performance.

Below are possible entry points for mainstreaming VAWG prevention and response in education interventions.

Legislation and policies

  • Adopt legislation and policies on zero tolerance for all forms of VAWG in the education sector.
  • Develop school policies of zero tolerance for VAWG, codes of conduct for school staff and students, and procedures to address VAWG like for reporting and referral of cases.

Violence prevention education

  • Review textbooks and curriculums to remove gender norms and stereotypes, and in particular to change content and/or images that encourage or support VAWG, and ensure that materials used in classrooms promote positive relationships between women and men.
  • Integrate in the school curriculum (not limited to one module and/or one grade) education on human rights, including gender equality and women’s rights; respectful relationships between women and men; and VAWG issues including laws and available assistance for survivors.
  • Introduce life skills education for violence prevention such as conflict resolution and mediation skills, communication skills, decision-making skills, etc. in both classes and extracurricular activities, across different grades.
  • Train female and male students on how to protect themselves against digital violence.
  • Offer parenting education sessions at pre- and elementary school levels to encourage positive relationships between parents and children.
  • Integrate in the higher education curriculum where relevant training in human rights including gender equality and women’s rights, and VAWG.

Pre- and in-service teachers’ training

  • Review teachers’ training curriculum to include one specialized module on gender and VAWG; how to detect students subject to violence, signs of violent behaviors and take action; and how to communicate about issues related to VAWG with their students.
  • Provide in-service training on similar subjects for teachers and other school staff.
  • Train teachers in teaching methods for violence prevention and life skills education.

Prevention and support services

  • Raise awareness among female and male students and staff about school policies; codes of conduct and procedures; VAWG, including sexual harassment; existing national legislation and policy; and support services that are available.
  • Use social media and blogs to raise awareness among the youth.
  • Establish adequate reporting mechanisms for cases of VAWG.
  • Enhance access to preventive and treatment services including counseling, health care and legal services either within educational institutions or through establishing/strengthening linkages with local service providers with a follow-up system.
  • Encourage students to become peer educators and peer counselors, and find innovative ways to value their contribution.
  • Offer individual and group counseling.

Safe physical environment

  • Consider adequate location of the educational institutions, as well as design and location of the facilities such as toilets, dormitories/hostels, shower blocks, staff quarters; provide separate facilities for female students/staff and male students/staff; and ensure they are well lit.

This is the third of a series of 4 blogs about ADB’s support to the global campaign to mobilize people to take a stand on VAWG between 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and Human Rights Day on 10 December.