PART 2 ~ Addressing gender-based violence through education

Women and girls today are at an alarming risk of violence in almost every space—at school and work, in the home and community, and even online. All of these have physical, psychological and social consequences.

Education has been shown to have a largely positive impact on reducing gender-based violence. Women with at least a secondary-level education are not as likely as their less-educated peers to experience violence. In addition, men with at least secondary education are not as likely as their less-educated peers to perpetrate violence.

Zonta believes education has the power to save and improve the lives of women and girls, which leads to healthier families and stronger communities. Through our international service projects, Zonta International is working to end gender-based violence (GBV) and bring education to women and girls in 16 countries.

How do we do this?

We ensure girls are able to stay in school.

In Madagascar, one in four children aged 6-10 does not attend primary school, and one in three children aged 11-14 does not attend lower secondary school. Since 2016, Zonta has partnered with UNICEF USA for the Let Us Learn Madagascar program to ensure that more children, particularly girls, have access to post-primary education and stay in school and that Madagascar’s education system can offer quality teaching for enhanced learning outcomes.

In addition to building schools, training teachers and providing alternative education to out-of-school children so they can catch up and reintegrate into the formal school system, the program also addresses the issue of violence in schools and the interlinkages between violence in communities and schools through child protection activities, supports the adoption of a code of conduct against violence at the district level, and strengthens the referral and intake services for children who are victims of violence, both in schools and in the community.

Since Zonta began supporting Let Us Learn, 72,000 students (36,585 girls) learned in classes facilitated by more than 3,000 newly trained teachers, 88 children’s clubs were established to promote children’s rights in lower secondary schools, and 937 out-of-school children benefited from catch-up classes and returned to school. A total of 45,214 children (52% girls) will benefit from the program over the next two years.

We work to end child marriage.

Girls with no education are three times as likely as those with secondary education to marry by age 18. Early marriage is associated with a higher risk of intimate partner violence and social isolation. The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage, which Zonta has supported since 2018, was designed to address the issue over 15 years from 2015 through 2030.

Through the program, Zonta is engaging adolescent girls as key agents of change in 12 countries with a high prevalence of child marriage. In the first phase of the program, 8.7 million girls were reached,

8,000 schools improved the quality of girls’ education and 46,000 service delivery points have improved services for adolescent girls.

The goal of the second phase is to elevate the voice and agency of adolescent girls, increase resources and opportunities for adolescent girls and their families, including girls’ access to education and healthcare services, and enhance legal and political action to prevent child marriage and to support married, divorced or widowed adolescent girls.

Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that must be stopped. Though it is just one piece of the puzzle, returning children to classrooms and educating them on their rights is taking a step toward ending this human rights violation.

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