The “Education Unions Take Action to End SRGBV” was a four-year programme involving nine unions in seven countries in Southern, Eastern and West Africa, supported by the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI), Education International (EI) and Gender at Work and funded by Global Affairs Canada. Its scope was both broad and deep, reaching over 100,000 rank and file teachers and education sector staff in Africa and reshaping policy dialogue on SRGBV in global fora.
It’s not easy to talk about gender-based violence in and around schools. Stories of bullying, harassment, corporal punishment or sexual assault, whether experienced by ourselves or others, can leave us feeling angry, fearful, hopeless or ashamed. Having worked with education union leaders and members for over five years, G@W Associates are critically aware of this challenge. Whenever teachers and unionists get together to discuss School-Related Gender-Based Violence (SRGBV), they fall into a serious, attentive mood. People often speak in whispers. They speak with urgency. They listen carefully with deep concern. When teachers and union members share stories of SRGBV they have heard about or experienced themselves, they are quickly moved to action. They find inspiration in a shared goal of eliminating gender-based violence in their schools, unions and educational institutions and by extension in their homes and communities.
If it is difficult to tell these stories, it is even more difficult to write about them, to put them into the public domain for everyone to know and to judge. The documents we offer here speak to the courage and perseverance of women and men, union leaders and employees, teachers and staff who have not only “broken the silence” surrounding gender-based violence in educational settings but have also taken action to end it. These documents were created with the intent to inspire and inform unionists, teachers and those who collaborate them to create safe learning and working environments for all. For Gender at Work, they offer compelling evidence of the power of feminist, peer-based, experiential and reflective pedagogy to disrupt oppressive social norms and foster more equitable attitudes, behaviours and relationships.
Together these documents provide a sample of how education unionists are putting themselves in the forefront of efforts to end SRGBV. There are many more stories to be told. In sharing this documentation, we hope to stimulate further reflection on our practice of feminist pedagogy for systems change to create workplaces and learning environments free of violence and discrimination.