School clubs to curb gender based violence

By Hellen Nachilongo. The Citizen.

Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a global health and human rights issue which is spread all over the world. It is particularly rampant in most developing countries like Tanzania. Women and children in many developing nations are severely affected by emotional and physical violence because of their gender. Ending GBV against its targeted victims requires the development of integrated approaches and forms of collaboration.

To ensure GBV is eliminated in the country, Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) is currently providing training to primary and secondary school teachers in order to sensitize them to establish gender clubs in their respective schools. The initiative aims at curbing the spread and severity of GBV.

Through TGNP initiative several secondary school teachers were trained and have ensured their schools establish gender clubs. Those include Mabibo, Makumbusho, Kivule, Kishapu Maganzo, Ukenyenge secondary schools while primary schools are Mchangani, Umoja, Kilimani Magoto and N’ereng’ere.

Kilimani Primary school teacher Mr Jagita Maryango said that pupils often experience GBV but unfortunately lack platforms to speak out or report the atrocious acts against them.

Mr Maryango made the remarks recently at the climax of 16 days of activism against gender based violence that brought together representatives from several institutions such as gender desks, gender activists, higher learning institution and students from different schools.

According to him, teachers hold the key to preventing violence against girls and boys around schools and more support is needed to keep children safe.

Apart from that, he further noted that schools are the right and best places to eliminate GBV because students spend most of their time in school than any other place. This means that any efforts aimed at eliminating GBV would be more effective initiated in different schools than anywhere else.

“Most school children experience GBV and other related problems but are compelled to keep the grievance inside because they do not know the right recourse or where to turn to when such an act is committed against them. They don’t know the right direction to take in order to report such issues, since we established a gender club our students have been equipped with several gender issues and are able to fight against GBV so far,” he said.

More awareness

He said that schools that have not established gender clubs should do so to help create more awareness to students in a bid to fight against GBV, sexual harassment and other related issues.

According to him, when his school introduced gender club only few students showed interest and joined the club, but so far more than 80 students have joined the club and they expect every child to have joined the club by next year.

He further explained that schools that have formed gender clubs were doing fine and most children are able to speak openly against GBV to parents, teachers and the community in general. The clubs have given the children confidence to express themselves without any reservations. This helps to curb the increase of GBV in schools since more children are aware of what steps to take when such an act of violence is committed.

Ubungo Regional Commissioner Mr Kisare Makori urged GBV activists to come up with some recommendations that would help the government to formulate syllabus on gender.

He further noted that in schools some subjects such as mathematics, science, art and geography are taught, therefore gender should be one of the subjects taught in schools to help eliminate GBV completely and provide awareness to students. Through learning it as a subject, more students would become aware of their rights and how to protect themselves against GBV.

“GBV is still a challenge in the country; available statistics show that 42 per cent of married women face sexual harassment from their spouse however, if gender issues are taught in school as a subject to students it would help boys to know of the negative consequence of abusing their partners, thus encourage them not to commit violence, on the side of the girl, the lessons would give them the needed knowledge to protect themselves by taking precautionary measures when faced with GBV,” he said.

Kivule Primary School teacher Ms Stella Lugendo said in most cases schools are usually places where GBV occurs unabated thus education has a central part to play in challenging the negative social norms that drive GBV.

She said that joint efforts are needed to ensure that violence against women and girls are rooted in gender-based discrimination and social norms and gender stereotypes that perpetuate such violence.

“Given the devastating effect violence has on women, efforts have mainly focused on responses and services for survivors,” she notes. However, the best way to end violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first place by addressing its root and structural causes.

Reports on welfare of children and women show that, prevention should start early in life, this can be done by educating and working with young boys and girls to promote respectful relationships and gender equality. Working with youth is a “best bet” for faster, sustained progress on preventing and eradicating gender-based violence. While public policies and interventions often overlook this stage of life, it is a critical time when values and norms around gender equality are forged.

Schools can be a breeding ground for violence. Roughly 246 million schoolchildren are harassed and abused in and around school every year around the world according to Plan International. And this is a global issue. Incidents of school-related gender-based violence cut across all classes.

Engaging men and boys as participants and stakeholders in gender-based violence prevention initiatives is an increasingly institutionalized component of global efforts to end GBV.

Accordingly, evidence of the impact of men’s engagement endeavors is beginning to emerge, particularly regarding interventions aimed at fostering gender equitable and nonviolent attitudes and behaviors among men.

This developing evidence base suggests that prevention programs with a “gender transformative” approach, or an explicit focus on questioning gender norms and expectations, show particular promise in achieving GBV prevention outcomes.

Interventions targeting attitude and behavior change, however, represent just one kind of approach within a heterogeneous collection of prevention efforts around the globe, which can also include community mobilization, policy change, and social activism.

Students are perhaps the best target when it comes to spreading preventive measures of GBV in Tanzania. They will grow up with a mentality that violence against the opposite gender should not be tolerated, and hence take steps to end it.

These clubs form a great starting point in spreading the fight against GBV.