Action Alert

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence

From November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, Human Rights Day, women around the world will join the call for an end to violence against women and girls. 

Each year, United Methodist Women joins the Center of Global Women’s Leadership (CGWL) in their 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign.

This year, based on a global survey which discovered how unsafe getting an education has become, 16 Days of Activism focuses on the relationship between peace and education with the theme: “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All.”

According to the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, violence against women — also known as gender-based violence — reflects “historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women.”

The education of women and girls, as stated by the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, is key to “skills and knowledge for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship, as well as gender equality, culture of peace and non-violence, and appreciation for cultural diversity.” To achieve this outcome, schools must be both accessible and safe.

As Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile and former executive director of UN Women, observed, “There is no city or country in the world where women and girls live free of the fear of violence. No leader can claim: 'this is not happening in my backyard.’”

The United Nations estimates that about 35 percent of women throughout the world will experience violence in their lifetime. Bullying, fighting and sexual assaults affect millions of children, and girls often experience physical and/or sexual violence at or on their way to school. Teachers, peers, neighbors and even friends perpetrate this violence. The impact of school-related violence extends far beyond the act itself. School-related violence can lead to poor attendance, lower academic results, and higher dropout rates — not to mention the emotional and mental toll it often causes. Girls who experience violence also have higher fertility rates and lower health status. For such girls, the everyday school experience fosters “fear and anxiety — rather than being the key to a fulfilling future,” said Katja Iversen, CEO of the women’s rights advocating organization Women Deliver.

Pakistani Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai started a global movement to bring attention to the social and economic power of educating girls. And over the past decade, much progress has been made in enabling girls to access education: enrollment is up 20 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and 15 percent in Southeast Asia. Yet 63 million girls of primary and secondary school age are still not in school.

Violence and distance to school are chief barriers preventing girls from getting an education. According to the findings of a five-year ActionAid project, efforts to curb violence against girls in school also have family impact, yielding “unexpected ripple effects” as girls’ increased confidence motivates their mothers to “speak out on violence and gender equality.” For Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, the increased agency in the lives of girls and women increases economic opportunity, political participation, and “transforms society for the better.”

Violence in the United States

However, violence in educational settings is not just an international phenomenon. Last year in the United States, the AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct found that about 12 percent of student respondents across 27 universities reported experiencing nonconsensual, sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation since they enrolled at their university. Moreover, the National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment (NVEEE) reports that 36 percent of girls online experience bullying.

About 83 percent of American 12-16 year olds say they have been harassed in public schools, and 10 percent of girls are victims of sexual assault. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, about 24 percent of girls experience bullying at school, and about 9 percent of high school girls stay home from school because they do not feel safe going to and from school. Nearly one third of teenagers between the ages of 14-20 in the United States are victims of dating violence, and nearly half report that some of the violence occurred on school premises.

The Campus SaVE Act of 2013 marked a significant response to sexual misconduct on college campuses. It complements Title IX, the law that protects against discrimination in education programs or activities based on sex. The Campus SaVE Act requires colleges that benefit from federal aid to educate students and staff about violence and to set standards for disciplinary action. It covers students experiencing violence or harassment whether they are enrolled in a public school, enrolled in a private school, or if they receive federal funding through various programs. However, since U.S. primary and secondary school systems are supervised at the state level, policies and protocols are varied in their consistency and effectiveness. Over 80 percent of high school counselors acknowledge feeling “ill-equipped” to respond to incidences of school site abuse.

The White House Task Force to Protect Students Against Sexual Assault has offered enhanced advisements to build awareness about the application of Title IX beyond college settings. Twenty-two states now have laws that require or encourage school boards to create curriculum on teen dating violence, and 70 percent of U.S. states have instituted programs related to building social skills to reduce violence. These data indicate that more needs to be done to enhance the safety of girls in and around schools here in the United States and around the world.

Posted or updated: 11/21/2016 11:00:00 PM
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Suggested Pages:

*Action Alerts

*Young Women's Access to Education Globally

Take Action:

  • There is something you can do to make education safe for all: Get involved in the 16 Days campaign! Use this Rutgers University action tool kit.
  • Contact your State Department of Education and local government office to ensure your state laws are protecting girls’ safe access to education.
  • Work with the Parent Teachers Association and The National Center for Safe Routes to Schools to:
    • Identify tools and strategies that engage parents and community partners in creating safe “sanctuaries for teaching and learning.”
    • Find out if your neighborhood schools have a school safety and violence policy in place. If not, organize parents, teachers, and students to form a policy that is compatible with state laws and local regulations.
    • Make sure students and partners are aware of existing safety plans and conduct codes.
  • Attend school board meetings, and talk to the members of the school board about creating a safe school climate for girls.
  • Meet your Congressional representatives or contact them through the Congressional switchboard: (202)-224-3121. Urge them to support the following bills: 
    • Education for All Act of 2016 (H.R.4881 & S.3256) would make it U.S. policy to work with other countries and organizations to achieve basic education for all, which would contribute to the empowerment of women and girls.
    • Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2015 (S.311 & H.R.2902) would require states to establish policies that prevent bullying and harassment that limits students' ability to participate in, or benefit from, school programs or that creates an abusive environment that adversely affects students’ education.
    • Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act (H.R.5735) would prioritize efforts to improve access to education for displaced girls and boys, which includes refugees and stateless people.

Learn More:

Join the United Methodist Women’s Action Network. 
Contact the Washington Office of Public Policy at: