What are the main challenges in terms of addressing SRGBV?
Given the complex nature of SRGBV, the lack of understanding that surrounds the concept and the sensitive nature of the issues, there are a number of challenges facing education systems, governments and policy-makers, as well as individuals in schools and communities, when it comes to addressing SRGBV:
- Social and cultural norms discourage the reporting of SRGBV and offer implicit, or even explicit, social sanction of some forms of SRGBV. The resistance of some individuals (including teachers, school heads and policy-makers) to talking to children about issues including gender, violence and sex, as well as fear of delivering sensitive material in some contexts, are both high due to social and cultural norms. Overcoming these barriers will require careful work with communities, parents and cultural gatekeepers. Ensuring proper consultation to challenge entrenched interests will take time and may be costly, but it has the potential to yield more sustainable results.
- Gender inequalities devalue and discriminate against women and girls and can shape a sense of entitlement among men and boys. For example, research from Ethiopia found that, although 93 per cent of male students knew violence against girls was against the law, about 33 per cent believed that it is right for male students to get whatever they want, either by charm or by force, and about 21 per cent admitted to behaving this way themselves (ActionAid, 2004).
- Capacity constraints in education systems, which are overwhelmed and overstretched in many countries already, affect work to prevent SRGBV. Supporting untrained or poorly trained and overstretched teachers with the tools, capacity and self-awareness to deliver curriculum approaches for preventing violence and promoting gender equality will be a major challenge. Finding a way to introduce modules slowly, looking closely at who should deliver these elements and what skills and knowledge they need, and planning for sufficient resources will all be critical to achieving the scale necessary for real change.
- Weak coordination and monitoring mechanisms limit the multisectoral coordination and collaboration between ministries of education, police, health, social services, child protection and other key sectors that are fundamental to preventing and responding to SRGBV. However, organizational culture change may be required to overcome institutional roadblocks to sharing information.
- Weak service support and referrals for victims limit access to quality services, including health, social services and child protection, which are often absent or inadequate, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected communities.
- Lack of governance and accountability mechanisms, with most countries not yet having legislation to protect children from violence in education settings. Some countries have recently introduced legislation prohibiting violence specifically in the school context. However, poor enforcement of legislation is an ongoing challenge. Ending impunity requires adequate prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.
- Emerging, but limited, evidence base on what works, although this is an area that is receiving increasing attention. The few evaluations of SRGBV interventions that currently exist vary greatly in methodology, rigour, scale and scope. This makes it difficult to identify best practice and draw conclusions about effective strategies that can be transferred to other settings. There is also a growing body of promising practices and existing knowledge that has not yet been fully documented.
- Insufficient data and research, exacerbated by under-reporting of certain forms of violence or by marginalized groups, limit credible data on the scale and impact of SRGBV. Data are missing or incomplete in many contexts, particularly on the intersectionalities between gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, disability and class and how these link to vulnerability and to SRGBV. Recent research for USAID identified gaps in: studies of the causes, dynamics and consequences of SRGBV; large-scale studies with findings that are comparable across countries; comprehensive studies investigating different forms of SRGBV; links between attitude and behaviour change; monitoring and indicators; and a disconnect between research and practice. As such, investment in strong data management systems and collection tools with disaggregated data will be an important early step (RTI International, 2015b).
The challenges associated with effectively addressing SRGBV are significant, and they are likely to be greater in areas where the need is greatest. However, the costs of not addressing this critical issue are unsupportable and the long-term returns of reducing SRGBV are manifold.