Today marks the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV). Forum for African Women Educationalists- Zimbabwe Chapter (FAWEZI) joins in the efforts to amplify voices and efforts to address this social evil. The 16 days of Activism are not just but a practise but a reminder to the policy makers, perpetrators and survivors of GBV that GBV still exist and needs to be reduced and eventually eliminated. It is at this time that we amplify our voices and commit more efforts to the discussions and actions against GBV.
In FAWEZI’s quest to reduce gender disparities in education the organisation is rolling out various projects which seek to promote quality education and safe learning environments for all children. One of the current projects ‘School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV) – A Whole School approach- Pilot Initiative’ has made progress in raising awareness and increasing response to SRGBV. The implementation of the project involves using a Whole School Approach (WSA) which outlines eight minimum elements to respond and address SRGBV.
SRGBV refers to acts or threats of sexual, physical, or psychological violence occurring in and around schools, perpetrated as a result of gender norms and stereotypes and enforced by unequal power dynamics. FAWEZI is aware of the fact that school children experience GBV at home, on their way to school, in the classroom and outside the classroom. It is therefore a critical factor to include the parents, the school community, school leadership, teaching and non-teaching staff in the drive to reducing SRGBV.
The WSA therefore includes developing and strengthening in-school policies and procedures, training and capacity building, as well as building school-family-community partnerships. It uses eight key elements which are:
- Effective school leadership and community engagement to create safe, gender-sensitive learning environments;
- Establishing and implementing a code of conduct;
- Capacity building of teachers and educational staff;
- Empowering children on child rights, participation, and gender equality;
- Improving reporting, monitoring, and accountability;
- Addressing incidents;
- Strengthening physical learning environments; and
- Engaging parents.
Among the 10 project schools (5 Chitungwiza, 5 Shamva District) St Aidan’s Primary School in Chitungwiza District and Mutumba Primary School in Shamva District have taken major steps in the reduction of SRGBV. The school staff and the surrounding community members are working hand in glove to reduce SRGBV incidences in and out of school.
Mr Chirume, one of the teachers spearheading the SRGBV project at St Aidan’s Primary school is confident that all the learners, teachers and non-teaching staff are now aware of what SRGBV is and how to reduce it.
“We have even established a slogan which everybody here is aware of. Our learners are now empowered and are aware of what SRGBV is”, he said.
“SRGBV – Zero tolerance is our slogan”.
The teachers have also roped in the vendors who sell snacks by the school’s gate and set up a vendors’ anti- SRGBV committee. The secretary of the Vendors’ Committee, popularly known as Mai Jakarasi is happy to be part of the initiative. (“Isusu hatichatode kuoona vana vachirovana kana kuchemedzana, takadzidziswa kuti tikaona zvichiitika tinoita sei.”) “We no longer tolerate fighting amongst learners and we have been trained on how to handle such cases if any.”
Children are not left out in this initiative. The Child rights participation and gender equity element in the WSA encourages children to be an integral part in identifying the forms of SRGBV at their schools and also coming up with their own solutions.
The incoming (2020) head girl Juanita Benjamin at the school also shared on how the learners have been part of the project shedding light on how they have benefited.
“Since the project started every child here now knows the types of SRGBV and also how to report it especially using the suggestion box,” she said.
“We have also been taught about how to use it, since previously it was placed in front of the administration block and most of us thought it was meant for the teachers”.
The fight against SRGBV in the project schools in the Shamva District is also starting to bear fruit. Mr Koto school head at Mutumba Primary school said he has noticed a reduction in the disciplinary cases presented to him by the teachers. He indicated that now the teachers are able to positively discipline learners on their own and credited the change to the teacher training that they went through under the project.
‘The training has helped improve teacher capacities on classroom management, gender responsive teaching methods and SRGBV,” he said.
He also indicated that the school children who are in the FAWEZI SRGBV club are actively sensitising fellow learners and this has brought significant reduction in fighting and bulling especially boys versus girls.
“We used to attend to three or four cases of fighting and bullying in a week but now we get one or none at all,” he said.
Mr Koto has also started talking to other school heads in Shamva District on the prospects of developing a culture of substituting the stick with alternative and positive ways of disciplining children.
To further buttress Mr Koto’s sentiments Mestabia Chimukonde (grade 6) said she is happy with changes that the SRGBV project and club has brought to the school.
“Bigger children used to bully others, even bullying us the prefects who have smaller bodies but now we are happy to say due to the SRGBV club sessions the bullying has reduced,” she said.
“Even the teachers had a meeting with us the children and discussed how the learners, teachers and non-teaching staff should behave in or order to reduce the SRGBV cases at our school.”
This project is currently underway in Shamva (Mutumba Primary and Secondary, Mupfure Primary and Secondary and Madziwa Rural Primary School, and in Chitungwiza ( Seke 2 High, Seke 6 High, Zengeza 4 High, St Aiadan’s Primary and Tasimukira Primary School). It is being implemented by FAWEZI in collaboration with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) through a partnership with the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) and a learning partner; Miske Witt Associates Inc. (MWAI) . The rationale for this pilot initiative is to contribute to evidence on effective strategies to implement a set of whole school minimum standards to prevent and respond to SRGBV.
FAWEZI is an affiliate to FAWE, a Pan-African organization based in Nairobi, Kenya. FAWE, which is represented in 35 countries in Africa, was founded in 1992, with the goal of promoting access, increasing retention and enhancing the quality of education for girls and women in Africa. Its mission is to work at provincial, district and school levels, together with partners, to create positive societal attitudes, policies and practices that promote equity for girls in terms of access, retention, performance and quality of education.
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