War not yet won on SRGBV, play your part

TANZANIA: WHICHEVER way you will look at it, school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) in Tanzania still remains a significant barrier to achieving equitable education for all children.

For your information, SRGBV that includes physical, sexual, and psychological violence occurs in and around schools and on the way to or from such learning institutions, where girls bear the brunt.

This pervasive issue undermines educational outcomes and continues gender inequality, despite ongoing efforts to address it. And in quick analysis, SRGBV in Tanzania manifests itself in numerous forms like sexual harassment against girls, bullying and corporal punishment for boys and girls as well as emotional abuse, which collectively lead a number of school dropouts.

According to a study by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Tanzania, nearly 3 in 10 females and approximately 1 in 7 males in Tanzania have experienced sexual violence prior to the age of 18.

Additionally, three-quarters of both females and males have experienced physical violence prior to the age of 18. Different stakeholders on SRGBV have suggested means or proper ways of helping students, who face such violence in schools, on the way to and from schools and around the school environment.

Education is a crucial tool in addressing SRGBV. Integrating gender-sensitive curricula that promote respect and equality can help change attitudes from an early age. Teacher training programmes are essential in equipping educators with the skills to identify and respond to instances of SRGBV effectively.

Schools must also establish clear reporting mechanisms and provide support services for victims, including counseling and legal assistance. The Executive Director of MyLegacy, Ms Fortunata Temu said that education has a power of bringing changes and development through equal understanding to both girls and boys but if they face violence, it is hard for them to get that knowledge.

“For students to learn effectively and improve educational outcomes, it is important to improve the learning environment. This includes ensuring the presence of adequate infrastructure and eliminating all forms of violence, including gender-based violence in schools,” she said.

Deep-rooted patriachal norms and gender CALL FOR INTERVIEW stereotypes significantly contribute to SRGBV. In many Tanzanian communities, traditional believes do devalue girls’ education, and instead prioritize boys’ schooling.

MyLegacy ExecutiveDirector, Ms Fortunata Temu explains issues which fuel schoolrelated gender basedviolence to some stakeholders, who participated in theworkshop in Dar es Salaam, recently.

This cultural backdrop creates an environment where violence against girls is often normalized and overlooked. Additionally, the stigma associated with reporting sexual violence discourages victims from coming forward, perpetuating a cycle of silence and impunity.

Tanzania has made some progress in addressing SRGBV through various legal and policy measures. The Education and Training Policy of 2014 emphasizes the need for a safe learning environment and zero tolerance for violence in schools. Also, the Law of the Child Act (2009) and the Penal Code contain provisions aimed at protecting children from abuse and exploitation.

Despite these measures, enforcement remains weak due to limited resources, lack of training among law enforcement officers, and societal reluctance to hold perpetrators accountable. Collectively, numerous initiatives by the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international bodies join hands to combat SRGBV.

Programs such as “Keeping Girls in School” and the “Safe Schools Program” focus on raising awareness, building support systems for victims, and training teachers to recognize and address violence.

For instance, Ms Furahini Michael, Project Manager from Msichana Initiative said, “in every community, it is important to have shelters or safe places to temporarily house victims of gender-based violence while investigations and other legal processes are ongoing.”

Additionally, campaigns promoting gender equality and women’s rights seek to change societal attitudes and reduce the stigma associated with reporting abuse. Coordinator (Partnerships, Reporting & Resource Mobilization) from MyLegacy, Ms Amina Mtengeti said that all stakeholders, including civil society organizations, government officials, and teachers, must continue to learn the causes of gender-based violence in schools based on specific environments and also continue to raise awareness about its effects on children, families, and the community at large.

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Community involvement is essential for sustainable change. Engaging parents, local leaders, and community members in dialogue about SRGBV can help shift cultural norms and reduce acceptance of violence.

Community-based interventions that include awareness campaigns, workshops, and support groups can create a more supportive environment for victims and promote a culture of accountability.

Registrar of Non-Governmental Organizations – Kinondoni Municipality Council, Mr John Deogratius said that religious institutions have a significant role in ensuring they increase awareness and education against gender-based violence and lead the way towards positive changes in our communities.

Addressing schoolrelated gender-based violence in Tanzania requires a multifaceted approach that includes strengthening legal frameworks, changing societal attitudes, and enhancing education systems.

While significant challenges remain, continued efforts by all stakeholders including the government, NGOs, communities, and international partners, can create a safer and more equitable learning environment for all students.

Ensuring that every child, regardless of gender, can pursue their education free from violence is not only a moral imperative but also essential for the country’s socio-economic development.

The battle against SRGBV in Tanzania is far from over, but with persistent and collective action, a safer and more just educational environment is achievable.

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