Lessons from union programme against gender-based violence essential during the Covid-19 pandemic

published 19 June 2020 updated 6 July 2020

Alarming reports of an exponential increase of gender-based violence have emerged from all regions of the world, since full or partial lockdowns were imposed in most countries over the last three months in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Education unions have mobilised to combat this worrying trend.

In 2016, Education International partnered with the UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) to launch the four-year Education Unions Take Action to End School-related Gender-based Violence programme. With financial support from Global Affairs Canada, the programme was implemented using Gender Action Learning methods facilitated by Gender at Work. Nine Education International member organisations in seven African countries were supported to test different strategies to empower and mobilise teachers and education staff as active agents of change to address school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) in their respective contexts. Their stories have been published in a collection entitled Working to End School-Related Gender-Based Violence.

The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the pre-existing gender norms and stereotypes, and unequal power relations that are the basis on which gender-based violence is perpetrated – including in and around schools and other educational settings.

On 12 June, the Education International Africa Regional Office convened a webinar to give Education International member organisations an opportunity to hear about some of the lessons learned from the Education Unions Take Action programme. A publication featuring the main strategies employed in the programme was launched during the webinar.

David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, stated: “Never has the importance of our role as education unions committed to eradicating persistent barriers to the right to education – such as school-related gender-based violence – been more critical. The Education Unions Take Action programme has taught us essential lessons. We are determined to redouble our efforts and ensure the progress we have made is not lost to this pandemic.”