Violence and sexual harassment is stopping girls from getting a safe education, reveals global poll

11 October 2017
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Violence and sexual harassment is stopping girls from getting a safe education, reveals global poll - As Girl Guides and Girl Scouts call for 12 years of free, safe, quality education around the world

(London, UK) – OVER 50 per cent of girls surveyed in a global poll say they have faced barriers, including violence and sexual harassment, to gaining a safe education, say the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

To mark International Day of the Girl on 11 October, over 1,500 young people from across 75 countries were asked about the state of education in their country, through U-Report.

Over a quarter of girls surveyed said they had faced some kind of danger on the way to school, 20 percent said the biggest threat to safe study was sexual harassment at school, while 10 percent said violence at home hindered their ability to gain a safe education.

When girls are faced with these barriers, over two thirds (68%) said they feared they would be unable to get a good job.

According to the UN, 130 million girls and young women around the world do not have access to an education today, with gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy, lack of body confidence, online bullying and access to menstrual hygiene products all damaging factors.

Girl and group smiling

Sandrine, 25, a Girl Guide from Rwanda, says:

“When I was 18, I started dating a guy from school. As I was walking home, he forced himself on me and raped me. Soon after, I discovered I was pregnant. As our families knew one another, they begged for his release. They told me they’d support me while I was at school, as well as after the baby was born. My family and I agreed, as we needed the financial support. The support I’d been promised soon stopped and I never heard from him or his family again. I was eventually forced to drop out of school.”

Now, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are standing up and speaking out in the face of adversity, supporting others and demanding change. With 10 million members across 150 countries, WAGGGS plays a lead role in breaking down barriers to education through its leadership and innovative learning programmes.

Keza, 12, from Rwanda, often missed school when she was younger due to poverty, but thanks to the Girl Guides Association in Rwanda she was able to get her education back on track.

“When I returned to school, I was bullied by my classmates - they said I wasn’t as intelligent as them. I didn’t feel confident enough to challenge them and I was too scared to raise my hand in class.

“There was a Girl Guide group at my school and I asked to join. They would study together and help each other out. If I didn’t understand something, they encouraged me to ask. Now, I feel much more confident and capable.” 

Non-formal education, such as Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting, offers opportunities for children and young people to develop confidence, leadership and skills for life. According to the poll, nearly a quarter (21%) of young people said Guiding and Girl Scouting was where they were able to learn about themselves and the world.

 Group hug

For Sandrine, it’s provided an opportunity to speak to other survivors of violence, as well as learn a new skill.

“Going to school is no longer possible, but being part of the Girl Guides has been an education. I’ve learnt a lot of things. I’ve even attended vocational training and I’d like to train to become a seamstress. It’s provided a lot of opportunity to gain new skills and make new friends.”

According to WAGGGS’ World Board Chair, Ana María Mideros:

“We educate girls in town halls, refugee camps and remote villages about violence, health, climate change and gender equality, to inspire them to speak out and better prepare them to go to school so they can realise their full potential.

“Education is at the heart of everything WAGGGS does; we want to enable girls and young women to develop to their fullest potential as responsible citizens of the world. Together, we work for a world where all girls are valued.”

To mark International Day of the Girl, WAGGGS is calling for 12 years of free, safe, quality education for every girl around the world. As part of the IDG celebrations, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts will be writing to decision-makers to demand more girls can access the education they deserve.


Spokespeople are available, along with case studies and photographs.

For more information, please contact:

UK - Angela Singh, Communications Manager
World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts
Phone: +44 (0)20 7433 6460




About World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) is the world’s only movement for every girl and any girl because we believe that each of them deserves to be the best they can be. The diverse Movement represents ten million girls and young women from 149 countries. Free to make what they want from the Movement, girls learn by doing, making friends and having fun. In safe, local spaces, girls develop the skills and attitudes to change themselves, their communities and our world. WAGGGS keeps the global Movement thriving, united and growing.

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