“As a mother, every morning I take the biggest leap of faith when I wave to my child as they leave for school. The fear that lurks in my heart is : Will anyone touch the body of my child? Will anyone bully her in school? Will she face corporal punishment for not being able to answer ? Our roads are not even safe to send our daughters and children walking to school.” shared a concerned mother from one of the Women’s Fellowship of Member Churches of National Council of Churches during World Day of Prayer event in Delhi while reflecting on the WDP theme “Receive Children , Receive Me.”
Such fear looms large in the heart of many mothers and parents in India. Violence in educational institutions in India and school-related gender-based violence is a recurring phenomenon in India. Such violence refers to acts of sexual, physical or psychological violence in and around schools because of stereotypes and roles or norms attributed to or expected because of sex or gender identity. GBV in education is perpetuated by teachers, school administrators, other school employees, fellow students, and community members.
Women’s Concerns Ministry of National Council of Churches in India invites member churches, church managed and run organizations/institutions to promote 16 Days of Activism Campaign against Gender -Based Violence. The theme of the 16 Days Activism Campaign 2017 is “Together We Can End Gender Based Violence in Education!”
16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. The aim of this Campaign is to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
The right to education and gender equality is central to human rights and development objectives. Nobel Prize winner renowned economist Amartya Sen rightly points out that there are two main inequalities: educational inequality and health inequality These are the indicators of a woman’s status of welfare. In India irrespective of the caste, creed, religion and social status, the overall status of a woman is lower than that of a man. Therefore a male child is preferred over a female child; a girl child is considered as a burden.
The female child in India is often deprived of her right to education and opportunities related to education, as compared to the male child. The number of girls dropping out of school far exceeds that of boys because girls are expected to help at home, either with household work or take care of younger siblings. Since girls spend more time performing domestic duties, it increases the gap between female and male equality, especially in rural parts of India.It is through education in the early days of a child that it is possible to bring about behavior changes and open doors to opportunities that will enhance their confidence, personality, and career independence.
A Children’s Program conducted by Women’s Concerns Ministry of National Council of Churches in India revealed that most of the children think that corporal punishment is mandatory disciplinary method and part and parcel of education. They also accept the violence they face silently. Even though the Government of India has banned corporal punishment as being criminal, yet corporal punishment is prevalent in majority of schools in India. This is a serious indicator of the culture of violence that exists in our society. The violence on dalit , indigenous and children from poor and vulnerable background is higher.
According to Revd Dr Roger Gaikwad – General Secretary of National Council of Churches in India “GBV in education continues to be a serious barrier to educational participation, especially of girls. The prophetic mission of churches in today’s context calls for asserting the gospel of human rights and security of vulnerable groups, particularly women, and therefore putting an to end such violence.” He further states that “Schools, from primary level to higher levels and educational institutions of vocational training and non-formal education, are important sites for normative change and have the potential to address gender inequalities and prevent GBV. “
Ms Moumita Biswas- Executive Secretary of Women’s Concerns Ministry of National Council of Churches in India points out “ We need to address gender norms at all levels and across multiple settings to prevent GBV in schools and the society at large. Violence on girls and children starts in their own home. Only publicizing child protection polices in school cannot end violence on children. Therefore we need to have a multi-dimensional wholistic approach to end gender based violence in education”.
NCCI has been engaging in various endevours to end gender based violence. Ecumenical and Spiritual Formation and Human Rights Training, and courses for pastors , community leaders and Church Heads are organized. The Certificate Course on Gender Justice and the 365 Days Campaign on “Zero Tolerance to Gender Based Violence: Make it Happen Now” are certain recent endeavours of Women’s Concerns Ministry of NCCI.
Biswas states that “There is a nexus also between food, hunger and gender based violence in education. Girl children are deprived of food in their own homes . On a hungry stomach, a girl child cannot study.” A survey conducted by Lutheran World Service India Trust in one of its ‘School After School Projects’ for poor children in the urban community revealed that girl children compared to male children cannot concentrate on studies because of hunger .
In Delhi, the capital city, 15 percent of children live in slums; lack of electricity is one of the biggest hurdles they face in the paths of education . Unable to study after sunset these children under-perform in class and drop out of school . ( Source; www.betterindia.com), This is the same story in many cities and villages in India . Lack of lights on the streets also leads to harassment and sexual violence of girls who go for tuition in the evening.
To promote children’s education especially from vulnerable background in Kolkata, the Women’s Fellowship of St James Church raises funds to provide a glass of milk in the evening to poor and street children who come to study in their school so that children are not hungry and concentrate on studies. “There are different ways to rethink of mission in today’s context to end Gender Based Violence in Education” – states Biswas. NCCI invites churches and ecumenical organizations to engage in advocacy to end gender based violence in education:
- Create Awareness about Human Right to Education
- Campaign against Gender-based Violence in Education
- Education in Refugee and Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) Camps
- Share information on Education and GBV in Education
- Educate children about their rights in schools, including Sunday schools
- Promote Child Protection Polices in educational institutions and organizations catering to children
Reported by Moumita Biswas – Women’s Concerns Ministry – National Council of Churches in India