Safe learning in Cambodia: overcoming school-related gender-based violence

23/11/2017
Régis Binard

VVOB Goodwill Ambassador Herman Van Rompuy launched VVOB’s latest EU-co-funded project ‘Teaching for Improved Gender Equality and Responsiveness’ on 19 November in Cambodia: “TIGER transforms schools into safe and learning-friendly environments for all children. School-related gender-based violence is still a serious barrier to realising the right to education, especially for girls.”

Girl power

As a result of the most recent EU-VVOB-partnership, the Teacher Education College and 40 primary and lower secondary schools in Battambang Province in Cambodia will be transformed into centres of excellence for gender-responsiveness.

But what does that mean? Gender-responsive actions go further than only identifying and being sensitive to gender issues. They proactively empower girls and women to overcome gender biases and truly participate in all aspects of society.

Children spend a significant amount of time at school during their development. As such, schools are one of the most crucial environments for gender-responsiveness. But to this day, persisting traditional gender norms and roles encourage school-related gender-based violence in many societies. This seriously undermines girls and young women’s full learning process, and that of boys for that matter, as well as the achievement of SDG 4.

GBV in schools

VVOB’s Goodwill Ambassador Herman Van Rompuy, former Prime Minister of Belgium and President of the European Council, stands firmly behind the integration of gender-responsive pedagogies in schools for good reason:

“The experience or threat of school-related gender-based violence results in poor performance, irregular attendance, dropout and low self-esteem. Schools can challenge social norms, create new rules and help people learn new and more equitable behaviours that will be of good use not only in school but also in society at large.”

Moving gender-responsiveness ever forward, ‘Teaching for Improved Gender Equality and Responsiveness’ (TIGER) in Cambodia is the latest project of VVOB to focus specifically on the learning experience of girls and young women. It follows iGROW in Suriname – which is also co-funded by the EU – and Girls on MARS in Rwanda.

TIGER

As Mr. Van Rompuy rightfully points out, teachers and school leaders are fundamental in changing behaviour. They have the possibility to instill in their learners a firm understanding of true gender equality. In Cambodia, educators are very aware of this responsibility.

But, at the same time, they feel insufficiently equipped to fulfil it. VVOB is taking advantage of the planned reforms in initial teacher education to change that.

Together with Puthi Komar Organization (PKO), Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (KAPE), Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC), the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and Ministry of Women’s Affairs, VVOB will develop an Action Guide on how to transform schools into gender-responsive, safe and learning-friendly environments together with . Teacher trainers and management staff of the Teacher Education College in Battambang will use this Action Guide in the education of its student teachers.

In parallel, VVOB and its partners will also work directly with the teachers and school leaders of 40 primary and lower secondary schools. Using the Action Guide, these hands-on educators will acquire the pedagogical capacity to create learning environments for all their pupils, approximately 9,600 boys and girls.

An overarching campaign on the prevention and protection of girls from all forms of violence maximises awareness of school-related gender-based violence to not only educators but the wider population of Battambang province.

Partnerships

VVOB’s core business is capacity development of its like-minded education partners, be it ministries of Education, institutions for teacher education or other organisations. One of TIGER’s most important pillars is capacity development support to five local education CSOs. These organisations will transform at least an additional 20 schools into gender-responsive environments on their own account, ensuring continuity of the gender-responsive evolution after the project ends.

“I know VVOB is very strong in bringing government ministries and civil society organisations together for the effective implementation of education and gender policies’, Mr. Van Rompuy says of VVOB’s approach. “I am therefore confident that VVOB and the consortium partners will successfully manage a meaningful dialogue between all stakeholders in this TIGER project.”

TIGER is co-funded by the EU, which is strongly committed to gender equality. “I commend the European Union for this”, the former President of the European Council continues. “Its Gender Action Plan 2016-2020 breaks the vicious cycle of gender discrimination by supporting partner countries to establish a more enabling environment for the fulfilment of girls’ and women’s rights, and to achieve real and tangible improvements in gender equality.”

TIGER at a glance

Title: Teaching for Improved Gender Equality and Responsiveness (TIGER)
Location: Battambang Province
Timing: 2017-2020
Budget: €782,834
Donor: Belgium; European Union
Sector: Primary education; lower secondary education
Focus: School-related gender-based violence; gender-responsive pedagogy; professional development of teachers (PRESET and INSET) and school leaders; equity

(Foto credit small picture: Régis Binart)