OVER two thirds of young people surveyed in a global poll believe the threat of sexual harassment in schools is an overwhelming problem for girls and young women, with more than half saying that it stops them from studying and taking part in hobbies, according to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).
To kick off 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, over 2,000 people from over 60 countries worldwide, many as young as 14, were asked for their thoughts on sexual harassment in local schools, colleges and universities, through U-Report.
The poll exposes the scale of the problem of sexual harassment in schools across many parts of the world, revealing girls face double discrimination due to their gender and fear of violence and is an issue that crosses cultural divides.
Violence and harassment was also revealed to have a major impact on a girl’s ability to pursue her hobbies, with one in two girls reporting that the threat of sexual harassment distracts them from studying or taking part in educational activities. Over 45 per cent revealed the main perpetrators of violence are other students, while over a quarter of young people believe teachers are responsible for sexual harassment in schools.
A number of the young people who spoke out as U-Reporters were Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from across the globe, many of whom are committed to putting a stop to violence in their community. Boys and men were also vocal in their responses, adding further weight to the poll, while over 1,400 messages were received, sharing actions that are being taken to challenge sexual harassment
“My friends used to joke that I had a stalker as he used to follow me everywhere. He’d make humping gestures at me from across the classroom and used to tell me he wanted to have sex with me. I asked him to stop loads of times but he didn’t and other people just laughed it off as him ‘just fancying me’. Teachers turned a blind eye too - ‘he just likes you, you should be flattered’. It went on for months and I just thought it was something I had to accept, I started to think it must be me - that I was being oversensitive and should just shut up and put up,” reveals a UK-based Girl Guide member.
“One girl was encouraged to take a naked photo of herself and share it with a boy in the class,” she continued. “He sent it round everyone and she was called a ‘slut’. The most worrying thing is that I know nothing’s changed – my 13 year old sister told me recently about a really similar story in her own class.”
According to another Girl Guide, 21, who is a UK-based U-Reporter:
“Girls often feel like they can't study maths or science, because they are seen as subjects for boys. We live in fear of sexual assault happening, even while we’re in school.”
Through a combination of anti-violence clubs, educational sessions, engaging boys and men as well as working with local governments, WAGGGS is working hard to ensure girls are able to speak out in the face of violence to ensure they can live a life free from harassment as part of its global Stop the Violence campaign: Speak out for Girls’ Rights.
Nicola Grinstead, Chair of World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ World Board, says:
“Girls and young women across the world are telling us that they face violence and harassment on a daily basis in schools, colleges and at university. The severity of the issue is significant. When girls are able to go to school, the fear of violence will stop many of them from reaching their full potential.”
Anita Tiessen, CEO of World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, says:
“It is a major cause for concern when girls and young women feel unsafe in a school environment, which is traditionally thought to be a safe space. WAGGGS is working in countries across the world to tackle violence and to encourage girls and women to speak out about it. U-Report is just one way in which they can do this.”
In Rwanda, girls and boys have formed anti-violence clubs in school. The young people discuss ways that they can make a change in their community, such as raising the issue with their fathers and brothers, educating them about why violence is not right.
In Italy, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are involving boys in educational sessions, explaining what violence is and how they can tackle it.
In Sri Lanka, Girl Guides are building coalitions by working with a range of partner organisations, including local government, to amplify their voice and ensure people across the country understand why violence against girls and women must be stopped.To view the full set of results, visit: https://ureport.in/poll/1625/. To find out more about WAGGGS’ Stop the Violence campaign or to join the movement, please visit www.wagggs.org
From 25 November – 16 December, WAGGGS will be sharing #16 ways in #16 Days in which young people can tackle gender-based violence around the world, to tie in with 16 Days of Activism. For case studies, photographs or interviews, please contact:
Angela Singh, Communications Manager, Media
World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts
Phone: +44 (0)20 7433 6460