This toolkit has been created to give education practitioners the knowledge and tools to prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). To stop the violence before it happens, create an equal world, and to intervene early to support survivors.
There are three important reasons for schools to promote gender equality and challenge Violence Against Women and Girls: education institutions have legal responsibilities to do so through child protection, there is a strong business case for this area of work and, finally but most importantly, there is a moral imperative to promote gender equality and stop violence against women and girls.
Education institutions across the UK need to recognise that they have a role to play in preventing violence against women and girls. Often they are already doing work to support students affected by this issue, and have initiatives in place to promote equality — but they could do more!
Education settings are an important site to prevent and intervene early to stop violence against women and girls. There are key players within an education environment who can stop the violence: children and young people (both boys and girls), education staff, parents and community members. A comprehensive education programme will work with all the key players and integrate a focus on violence against women and girls within the following components of an organisation: Learning, Safeguarding, Participating, Campaigning, Institutionalising and Localising.
Children and young people want to learn about sex, relationships, respect and abuse. They do not want to live in a world where there is violence against women and girls. Children and young people recognise that they are not given sufficient education on the things they want to learn about. In one UK survey in 2007 by the UK Youth Parliament of over 20,000 young people aged under 18:
OFSTED the Education Inspectorate for schools in England found that Personal Social Health and Economic Education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) was not good enough in English schools:
“Sex and relationships education required improvement in over a third of schools, leaving some children and young people unprepared for the physical and emotional changes they will experience during puberty, and later when they grow up and form adult relationships. This is a particular concern because as recent research conducted by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation indicates, failure to provide high quality, age-appropriate sex and relationships education may leave young people vulnerable to inappropriate sexual behaviours and exploitation, particularly if they are not taught the appropriate language, or have not developed the confidence to describe unwanted behaviours, do not know who to go to for help, or understand that sexual exploitation is wrong.”
The Department for Education recognises the important role of good quality and comprehensive education to develop emotional and social skills. “Children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school well-being on average have higher levels of academic achievement and are more engaged in school, both concurrently and in later years’”. Therefore, it is not a massive leap to claim that a comprehensive education programme to end Violence Against Women and Girls, that includes the development of emotional and social skills, will mean that children and young people do better in education.
There are three important reasons for schools to promote gender equality and challenge Violence Against Women and Girls: education institutions have legal responsibilities to do so through child protection, there is a strong business case for this area of work and, finally but most importantly there is a moral imperative to promote gender equality and tackle violence against women and girls.
Education institutions across the UK need to recognise that they have a role to play in preventing Violence Against Women and Girls. Often they are already doing work to support students affected by this issue, and have initiatives in place to promote equality — but they could do more!
Behaviour: Schools have a legal responsibility under Section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 to have a behaviour policy, which includes measures to encourage ‘good behaviour and respect for others on the part of pupils and, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying among pupils’ (1b).
Child Protection: ‘Safeguarding Children in Education’ guidance 2004 supports the legal duty of schools to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The guidance states that ‘a distinction needs to be drawn between behaviour best dealt with by anti-bullying policies and more complex behaviour which can be particularly sexually harmful and where both the perpetrator and the victim may need specialist help…even when sexualised behaviour is identified and a pupil is on a treatment programme, they still have to be educated and managed in a school setting. [The] management of this behaviour in school needs to be approached on a whole school, classroom/curriculum and individual level’.
In 2014 the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women, and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) came into force. Important themes of the Convention include Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, Substantive law and Monitoring.
Article 14: Parties shall take, where appropriate, the necessary steps to include teaching material on issues such as equality between women and men, non‐stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non‐violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, gender‐based violence against women and the right to personal integrity, adapted to the evolving capacity of learners, in formal curricula and at all levels of education.
The UK Government has ratified a number of international declarations which stress the need for children and young people to receive information on Violence Against Women and girls — and emphasise the importance of gender equality. The UK Government has ratified the United Nations Beijing Platform for Action, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Paragraph 45 of the 2013 UN CEDAW Committee concluding observations and recommendations reported the following:
The CEDAW Committee recommends that the State party should:
(a) Consider introducing mandatory age appropriate education on sexual and reproductive rights in school curricula, including issues on gender relations and responsible sexual behaviour , particularly targeting adolescent girls; and
(b) Enhance measures to prevent, punish and eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls, including bullying and expressions of racist sentiments, in educational institutions;
(c) Intensify career guidance activities to encourage girls to pursue non-traditional paths and improve the gender awareness of teaching personnel at all levels of the education system;
There is a strong moral case to deliver prevention education programmes to stop Violence Against Women and Girls. Education staff often make the moral argument that, as members of society and people in authority, they have a responsibility to take a stand against inequality and violence. As one teacher commented:
‘If we want pupils [girls and boys] to have the full range of choices then they need to have the self-esteem and value in themselves to make those choices and I think this is a way of making sure that happens.
And, I think, because of increases in domestic violence and the research that shows that a girl is more likely to be affected by the crime of domestic violence than by any other crime…well, to me, that speaks eons. Because, if you can do something to prevent that from happening, even if it is the one girl or one couple or one lad — victim or perpetrator — then we have done our stuff. To me it seems an obvious step and I think it is something that the government should be putting into statute.’
Many children and young people in the education setting will have experienced violence against women and girls, and this will have an impact on their behaviour and attainment (some would say the business of education). Around a third of students in any school are likely to be living in, or have had experience of living in an abusive or violent home situation. Furthermore, if young people are experiencing harassment or bullying within the school, they are likely not to feel safe or be able to focus on their education. Children and young people who can be protected, supported and prevented from experiencing violence will do better within education and throughout their life.
It is also likely that some members of staff are living with, or have a history of experiencing abuse and violence. Experience of violence against women and girls will impact on an adult’s capabilities and the input they are able to give to the young people in their care, and they may need support to deal with their experiences. Education settings that support staff who have experienced violence against women and girls will have happier staff.
This section is based on evidence from research that AVA did with prevention practitioners from across the UK that identified what works and developed a model for a comprehensive education prevention programme. There is guidance, tips and tools on how to implement the following components: