GENDER BASED VIOLENCE, HIV AND SCHOOLS
Presenter: Marion Natakunda Timusimu- Research/Information and Advocacy Specialist, AIDS information centre - Uganda.
Challenges to implementation: The safe school program started by AIDS Information Center – Uganda, 2 year African Development Bank funded pilot project; the Safe schools works in 71 schools so far targeting 10-14 year old students in primary and secondary school. The aim is to reduce school related gender based violence (SRGBV) and increase gender-equitable behaviours –key to HIV. Interventions include three training programs to enable teachers, students and community volunteer counselors to prevent gender violence and transform harmful gender norms that contribute to inequality; revising national teacher codes of conduct; and mobilizing local communities to address SRGBV. Challenges include resistance by some parents to change entrenched cultural practices such as child marriage. Individuals wanting to report cases of gender violence still face barriers such as fear of reprisal, stigma and not understanding reporting procedures.
Intervention of Response: Quarterly project reviews and monthly monitoring meetings are held to handle problems and find solutions. Challenges have been addressed through: the innovative use of student – selected community members to serve as counsellors, a platform to sensitize parents and community members about gender violence and the need to delay marriage and keep girls in school.
Results and Lessons Learned: The program uses a quasi – experimental design where pre and post- test comparisons between intervention schools and control schools are being conducted. Anecdotal evidence shows promising trends in intervention schools. Corporal punishment has been reduced and counselling services are being used by victims and perpetrators of gender violence. School officials have noted that absenteeism and drop outs have decreased. Sexual relations between teachers and students have been reduced or stopped altogether in most schools. Incidents of early marriages are resolved with the concerned parties. Results on the changes in students and teacher knowledge, attitudes and practice relating to SRGBV have been assessed.
Key Recommendations: Safe Schools is designed to protect adolescents from gender violence and transform the gender norms that make them more at risk of HIV infection. Natural linkages for the safe schools approaches include school- based and informal HIV prevention programs for the general schools populations in addition to specific groups such as orphans and vulnerable children. Other recommendations include examining ways to weave the safe Schools curricula into existing national school-based life skills programs and into pre- service teacher training courses.