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Various reviews of policy, practice and evidence on programs addressing school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) show that preventing and eliminating SRGBV sustainably requires a gender transformative approach that engages the whole school. Of the various forms of SRGBV, explicit threats or acts of sexual violence are particularly destructive to adolescents’ wellbeing and learning opportunities.
Research suggests that a significant proportion of adolescents in Suriname experience maltreatment, especially peer-to-peer sexual victimization. While most of this violence takes place in domestic settings, it is increasingly clear that schools are by no means safe places either. In 2017, VVOB, Stichting Lobi – Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) and Youth Empowerment Suriname (YES!) joined hands to pilot iGROW, targeting lower secondary vocational education and training (LS VET) schools combining professional development for school leaders and teachers with coaching for students and parents. Between 2017 and now, iGROW reached one fifth of LS VET schools in Suriname. Questionnaires administered in 2017 among 302 second-year students of participating LS VET schools, 14% spoke of unwanted touching by other students and 7% indicated being forced into sex by fellow students. Only 32% of these students felt protected by the school.
SRGBV is driven by persistent negative social norms about gender, sexuality and power that play out at individual, family, school and education system-level. To transform these norms, iGROW invited a broad set of stakeholders – students, teachers, school leaders, parents and government education authorities – to question their assumptions about gender and sexuality and try out new ways of behaving through a range of actions aimed at making schools safer, more learner-friendly, and gender-sensitive. In their training and coaching activities, YAM and YES! engaged students in dialogue about what it means to be a man or woman and about sexual and reproductive health and rights. VVOB trained teachers and school leaders in the Sensoa Flag System, an evidence-based methodology that enables professionals to correctly recognize (un)acceptable sexual behavior in youth and to respond in an appropriate manner. While maintaining explicit focus on preventing and addressing gendered “problematic behavior”, particularly sexual violence, the chosen approach integrated issues around SRGBV in a broader educational support program to enhance the quality of Suriname’s LS VET and reduce early school leaving and truancy. This has increased opportunities to negotiate with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (MoESC) about sustainably addressing SRGBV and at greater scale.
The presentation will focus on the following questions:
1) What is the normative context in which iGROW takes place? How is (SR)GBV addressed in policy, law and guidelines at national and school-level?
2) Whether / How have different stakeholders’ norms related to gender and sexuality and SRGBV shifted over the course of iGROW?
3) With a view on sustainability and scaling: What are different stakeholders’ views on the effectiveness of iGROW and how could it be strengthened?
We draw on qualitative and quantitative data collected among relevant MoESC officials as well as 302 second-year and 293 third-year students, 46 teachers, and all school leaders of the pilot schools.