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Youth and leadership participation

Last edited: November 14, 2016

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Why is youth leadership and participation important for SRGBV?

Youth leadership and participation are important when it comes to tackling SRGBV, since young people are directly affected by SRGBV and should be part of the solution. Youth leadership and participation in the design, structures, policy and practice of SRGBV interventions will help ensure that these are relevant, responsive and accessible (Fancy and McAslan Fraser, 2014a).

 ‘When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account.’ (Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child)

Young people have played an effective role in activities aimed at preventing, responding to and monitoring SRGBV at a variety of levels:

  • Global and regional levels: for example, at the national and regional level, youth activists designed and led the UNiTE Global Youth Network with the aim of ending gender inequality and violence against women and girls.
  • Community level: for example, raising awareness and advocacy around SRGBV.
  • School level: for example, participating in school management structures and other SRGBV oversight mechanisms. 


Country example – MEJNIN (meyeder jonno nirapad nagorikotta – safe citizenship for girls), Bangladesh

MEJNIN is an innovative school-based programme that aims to raise young people’s awareness of sexual harassment of girl students in public places. The project motivates young people to act as leaders and change-makers, both as individuals and collectively, to protect, protest and resist sexual harassment and other cases of gender-based violence. Young people form ‘student watch groups’ that identify issues, such as cases of sexual harassment or child marriage, and seek to resolve them with the support of their teachers and/or the MEJNIN programme. The programme also has complaint boxes in schools where children can share their feelings. At the end of every month, the boxes are opened and the group tries to resolve the problems that have been raised. In addition, the programme works with parents through community watch groups that are involved in awareness-raising activities, such as wall writing, rallies and a human chain to promote safe citizenship. MEJNIN is working with students, teachers and parents in 400 schools in the capital Dhaka and rural parts of Bangladesh.

Source: BRAC website and video 


Country example – Purple My School campaign, Asia-Pacific region

Schools can be hostile environments for LGBTI students, who often suffer harassment, violence, abuse and discrimination from teachers and peers. In June 2015, the #PurpleMySchool campaign was launched by UNESCO, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and ‘Being LGBTI in Asia’ (a regional partnership between UNDP, USAID and the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok) with the aim of ensuring educational settings are free from bullying and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

The campaign encourages peers, teachers and parents to become allies of LGBTI students. Supporters are encouraged to wear, draw or make something purple and submit photos to the campaign website or share on social media using the hashtag #PurpleMySchool. Schools and universities have also supported the campaign in a variety of creative ways, for example through sports activities, games, wearing purple clothes, sharing purple stickers, candles, leaflets and balloons, and arranging visits by well-known LGBTI activists and celebrities.  

Source: Purple My School campaign


Example: Girls’ Education Advisory Committees, Ethiopia

Girls’ Education Advisory Committees (GEACs) were established in Ethiopia as part to the USAID Community Schools Activities project, and soon spread to other non-assisted locations – both spontaneously and as part of a national policy – so that committees now function in all schools. The committees include boys and girls, sometimes a community member, and a female teacher as advisor.

GEAC activities relating to SRGBV include:

  • Provision of counselling on sexual harassment and bullying
  • Creation of girls’ clubs as safe places for girls to talk, where they are encouraged to report any SRGBV to the committees
  • Organization of meetings with parents and community leaders about traditional customs such as polygamy, female genital mutilation, early marriage, abduction, rape, harassment and other factors affecting the safety and education of girls
  • Rescue of female students from abduction attempts; support to continue their education – with school pupils’ efforts backed up by authority figures such as school teachers and the law
  • Advocacy to bring teachers and others who abused female students to trial
  • Organization of woreda level (administrative district) meetings to discuss problems/challenges of girls' education and to develop remedial actions for better school participation by girls.

Source: USAID Ethiopia (2010)


Example: Cool Schools Peer Mediation Programme, New Zealand

The Cool Schools Peer Mediation Programme was designed in 1991 by the Peace Foundation. The programme teaches students and teachers how to resolve conflict peacefully. To reinforce the learning that occurs in the classroom, a group of children are trained in conflict resolution skills and appointed as peer mediators within the school. The peer mediators are trained in this role by the Cool Schools Coordinator (a nominated teacher), who also supervises them and manages the duty roster. Teachers and school staff are also trained in reducing conflict and violence.

The programme has been delivered to nearly two-thirds of primary and secondary schools in New Zealand and has been introduced to schools in Australia, Fiji and Pakistan. An evaluation of schools implementing the programme found that:

  • 80–85 per cent of minor disputes are settled permanently by peer mediators, helping to make the school environment (and particularly the playground) a happier, safer, more peaceful place.
  • The number of mediations needed has decreased over time.
  • The programme helped individuals to develop life-long conflict management skills, as well as broader skills (communication, life skills, leadership, problem-solving and self-control), which are transferable to the home, workplace, community and beyond.
  • There have been reductions in the number of detentions and instances of bullying.
  • There have also been changes in teachers’ behaviour, although teacher participation in the programme is variable due to staff turnover and lack of buy-in.

Source: UNESCO (2014); Murrow et al (2004)


Example: TUSEME clubs

Using drama, TUSEME workshops build the confidence and advocacy skills of girls in schools. TUSEME clubs provide a forum for students to discuss their academic and social problems critically and support implementation of the TUSEME activities. Students participate in group discussions, debates, individual consultations and sharing of learning materials. They develop links with teachers and the school administration and work together to speak out about problems arising in their schools; students also use the principles of theatre for development as tools for research, empowerment, and participatory planning and to gain leadership skills. 

The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) has supported TUSEME in a number of African countries. In Tanzania, where FAWE first started TUSEME in 1996, FAWE worked closely with the Ministry of Education and Culture to establish and scale up the programme within secondary schools in Tanzania and more recently, in pilot primary schools. The TUSEME process and curricula is included as a specific strategy for improving girls’ education within the Ministry’s Secondary Education Development Programme II for 2010-2016 (SEDPII).

Some lessons have been learned from the application of the project in other countries. For example, in order to increase the success of TUSEME clubs in Senegal, teacher training workshops were held by FAWE on gender issues and the TUSEME approach. By conducting teacher trainings, a core of model teachers has been established who understand gender issues in education and who can serve as an example to other teachers. In Rwanda, few of the TUSEME clubs were found to be functioning by one evaluation. The evaluation recommended more contextualisation, clearer documentation and closer work and training with girls, teachers and community members to make the clubs more effective.

Overall, TUSEME – when fully implemented – has the potential to engage girls and increase their advocacy skills, but much more work is needed to ensure that the clubs get the right support and training to be effective.

FAWE produced a handbook for teachers: “Let us speak out”: Empowering youth through Tuseme - A teachers' handbook (2005). Available by request in English and French from

Sources: UNICEF (2011); FAWE (2004); FAWE News (2004); University of Dar es Sallam (2007)