Teach For Kenya champions a multidisciplinary approach to education reform. We view Teaching as Collective Leadership and students as the promise of a brighter future for all Kenyans.

May 24, 2024 admin No Comments

Boys and Girls Safe Spaces: A Partnership Against Harmful Gender-Based Norms in Our Schools

“The most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive empowerment and engagement of the community.”
– Jane D. Hull.

The prevalence of school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) has a profound impact on millions of children worldwide. In Kenya, the 2019 Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) revealed alarming statistics, with a high percentage of girls and boys reporting experiences of physical and sexual violence. SRGBV has far-reaching consequences, impacting the well-being and academic achievement of children. Exposing students to violence in school can lead to further violence and have broader societal consequences on gender equality.

Recently, Teach for Kenya organized a highly impactful Partnership Meeting at the YMCA, which brought together an impressive and diverse array of attendees. Among those present were community health assistants, social workers, police administrators, system teachers, local implementing partners, and TFK Fellows, all of whom played crucial roles in the education and well-being of children in Kenya.

The primary goal of this significant gathering was to delve deeply into the specific functions and responsibilities of each organization in actively engaging boys, girls, and teachers in classrooms. The focus was on identifying and addressing harmful gender norms that have persisted throughout the years, hindering the holistic development and progress of the young learners.

The meeting was characterized by a series of enlightening discussions and comprehensive presentations by all the partners. Their shared objective was to collaboratively establish robust and enduring partnerships between parents, communities, and schools.

The aim of this partnership is to create a supportive environment that would enhance children’s learning experiences and enable them to thrive academically and personally. The event served as a remarkable showcase of dedication and commitment, highlighting the collective efforts of all involved in shaping a positive and promising future for the children of Kenya.
Some of the thought-provoking questions discussed during the meeting included:

  • Is the community aware of the offices in the society where GBV (Gender-Based Violence) cases can be reported?
  • What GBV services are conducted in the community?
  • Are the attendees supporting the advocacy and reporting of GBV cases by the communities to the relevant authorities? If so, what are some of the challenges?
  • Is there a known number for reporting GBV cases?
  • How often are GBV awareness creation initiatives conducted in the community?
  • Do the respective offices follow up on the GBV cases and resolve them satisfactorily?

The healthcare workers reported that the common GBV cases at health facilities include:

  • Sexual abuse

  • Physical abuse

  • Psycho-social abuse

  • Mental health issues

  • Economic abuse.

They also highlighted that most survivors are not aware of how to handle such cases due to

  • lack of knowledge

  • Ignorance

  • Threats

  • Insecurity

  • Cultural issues.

    Some actionable ways to improve these issues include:

    • Creating more awareness through the involvement of local leaders or authorities

    • Establishing gender offices at police stations and networking with other stakeholders to address GBV issues

  • Conducting referrals to relevant institutions for comprehensive support

  • Ensuring thorough follow-ups on the reported cases

  • Offering essential psychosocial support to survivors

  • Conducting baseline surveys to understand the specific needs of communities

Furthermore, the challenges that affect the effective application of programs aimed at combating GBV were also discussed, including

  • Corruption from perpetrators and the authorities involved

  • Poverty

  • Threats from perpetrators

  • Compromised victims

  • Cultural practices supporting acts like FGM and early marriages

  • Stigmatization

  • Bureaucracy

  • Lack of sufficient capacity building for the concerned authorities.

ABOUT THE LET GIRLS THRIVE PROJECT

THE ISSUE:
Gender-based violence (GBV) remains a pressing issue in Kenya, as evidenced by a survey conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and the Ministry of Health in 2022. The survey found that 39%-45% of women and girls in Kenya have experienced physical violence, while 14% have experienced sexual violence. This not only poses a direct threat to the educational opportunities of girls but also perpetuates gender inequalities and hampers overall societal development.

Additionally, a comprehensive needs assessment conducted by our alumni revealed alarming rates of GBV faced by girls in informal settlements, with daily reports of cases ranging from an average of 4 to 10 in different areas. These brave girls also disclosed being victims of rape and other forms of gender-based violence, often perpetrated by close relatives, and faced threats of violence when attempting to speak out against these injustices.

These findings emphasize the urgent need to address harmful gender norms, systemic challenges, and the pervasive violence faced by girls, particularly within educational institutions and informal settlements.

LET GIRLS THRIVE PROJECT

The Let Girls Thrive project aims to actively engage boys, girls, and teachers in classrooms to identify and challenge harmful gender norms that have persisted over time.

Through gender-responsive pedagogies, the project seeks to promote gender equality in the teaching process across Teach For Kenya’s 25 partner schools, working in collaboration with teaching fellows supported by TFK.

This project is necessitated by the prevalence of harmful gender norms within learning institutions, which can be attributed to historical systemic infrastructure. In accordance with the

Convention on the Rights of the Child, all State Parties are obligated to protect children from violence, prevent and respond to such acts, and provide support to child victims of violence.

Similarly, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (VAW) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) condemn violence and advocate for measures to safeguard the well-being of all individuals, particularly women and girls.

Let Girls Thrive seeks to create an inclusive and supportive environment within schools, challenging gender norms, and enabling girls to overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential.
The project’s primary objectives include:

Teach for Kenya is implementing the 2nd phase of the ‘Let Girls Thrive’ project which seeks to sensitize the communities we serve on Gender Based Violence.

Cognizant that negative gender norms are still being perpetuated even in learning institutions due to historical systemic infrastructure, the project seeks to mobilize boys, girls and teachers in the classroom to mainstream gender through gender responsive pedagogies in the teaching process within 10 of our partner schools in Kisumu and Nairobi counties.

In Kisumu, our partner schools are located in Kisumu Central and Kisumu East sub counties. In Nairobi, the schools are in Kasarani and Embakasi sub counties.

Objective of the Project:

  • Increase access to information on gender-based violence, identification, and reporting among boys and girls in school
  • Build a support network and groups and linkages for survivors of GBV
  • Increase community support and protection of girls and women against GBV
  • Increase advocacy and reporting cases to the respective officers within the community like the gender desk at the police
  • increased enrollment retention in school and transition of girls in school

Project Activities:
-Weekly training
-Mentoring & Leadership
-Setting goals
-Gender, Violence against children
-Children‘s rights
-Life skills, (VII)
-Healthy friendships
-Healthy bodies
-Talk boxes
-Child rights Clubs

In conclusion, Gender-based violence (GBV) is a significant violation of mainly women’s and girls’ human rights. The 2019 Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) shed light on the extent and types of school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) experienced by primary school students and the emotional impact it has on them. SRGBV is particularly concerning for preadolescent and adolescent girls and is seriously hindering their learning experiences.

The causes of SRGBV are rooted in a lack of social support, guidance, and counseling from both parents and teachers, and a shortage of appropriate interventions and policy enforcement to address perpetrators.
It’s clear that there is a need to identify the forms of SRGBV and address the underlying causes by implementing interventions that promote school and community involvement to create a safer and more supportive environment for all students.

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