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Programmes Developing awareness on Gender-based Violence (GBV) as a major health & human rights problem among school students


Background and Justification                                                                                               Photo Gallery

Gender-based Violence (GBV) or Violence against Women (VAW), is a major public health and human rights problem throughout the world. It violates women’s basic human rights. It includes physical, psychological and physical harm or threats thereof, and it may be perpetrated within families, within communities or by governments.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) recognised that “violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”

The United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in 1994 in Cairo called on governments to take full measures to eliminate all forms of exploitation, abuse, harassment and violence against women, adolescents and girls. Over the past decade, gender-based violence has gained recognition as a human rights violation that needs to be addressed broadly, through high-level advocacy, mass communication campaigns and legal and civil action, including support for victims.

“WHO Multi-Country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women” (2005), a landmark study, both in its scope and dimensions; conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO); observes “Violence against women has a far deeper impact than the immediate harm caused. It has devastating consequences for the women who experience it, and a traumatic effect on those who witness it, particularly children. It shames States that fail to prevent it and societies that tolerate it. Violence against women is a violation of basic human rights that must be eliminated through political will, and by legal and civil action in all sectors of society.”

Why Schools?

Schools clearly have the great potentials to bring positive attitudinal and behaviour change for promoting unacceptability and zero tolerance of all forms of violence against women and girls as well as in building skills for fostering respect for the human and legal rights of girls and women. The school-level programmes will ensure sustainable human development; impacting the families, neighbourhoods, communities and the society; as the boys and girls, as the future citizens and parents, will have catalyst role in percolating and spreading the acquired positive cultural values for advancement of girls and women.  


The WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women (2005)-the path-breaking study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has proposed 15 specific recommendations for the Member States which could be implemented in collaboration with the non-governmental organisations, international organisations and donors on a priority basis. Among these recommendations the Recommendation-9 “Make schools safe for girls” involving the education sector, has provided the imperativeness of raising awareness about gender-based violence (GBV). The recommendation has underlined “skills-based education as an effective way to enable students and staff to reduce potential conflicts.....” The WHO study further observes “To be effective, programmes should begin early, involve both girls and boys although probably with different information and key messages”.

United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children (2005) another landmark study-the first comprehensive, global study on all forms of violence against children. prepared by Graça  Machel ; with Preface by Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General; underlines and reflects children’s status as rights holders, and their right to express views on all matters that affect them and have their views given due weight.

The central message of the Study is that “no violence against children is justifiable, and all violence against children is preventable.” The study revels that in every region, in stark contradiction to States’ human rights obligations and children’s developmental needs, much violence against children remains legal, State-authorised and socially approved. The Study aims to mark a “definitive global turning point: an end to the justification of violence against children, whether accepted as ‘tradition’ or disguised as ‘discipline’.”

The study recognises that “schools are uniquely placed to break the patterns of violence by giving children, their parents and communities the knowledge and skills to communicate, negotiate and resolve conflicts in more constructive ways.” However, as the study acknowledges “patterns of violence are often entrenched in school culture, sometimes as a matter of policy supported and promoted by certain theories about childhood development and learning.”

There is a great vacuum in awareness of GBV in the school settings in our country. The void is almost complete in the North-Eastern Region; including the State of Assam. Awareness on GBV, need to be promoted as an important component of gender-supportive, health-promoting and child-friendly school system.


The broad objective of the workshops has been to promote deeper understanding, awareness and knowledge among students on Gender-based Violence (GBV) or Violence against Women (VAW) as a major public health and human rights problem.

The specific objectives of the workshops include;

  • Raising understanding on the concept, causes, dimensions and consequences of gender-based violence;
  • Exploding the myths and realities surrounding GBV; and
  • promoting greater consciousness on the need for respecting and enforcing human rights of women and girls or gender equality as pivotal to human progress; the damaging consequences of abusive behaviour against women and girls as well as the impact of GBV on future generations.

The ultimate goal of the workshops has been to promote positive attitudes and behavioural norms among the boys and girls for unacceptability and zero tolerance of all forms of exploitation, abuse, harassment and violence against women, adolescent girls and girl children to foster equitable, engendered and sustainable human development.

Strategic Themes and Action Plans

Orientation workshops, covering secondary and senior secondary students, are being organised. Each workshop covers one school. The workshops have holistic format and coverage, and are aimed at acquainting the participant students with the concept, components, dimensions and causes and effects of GBV. 

The workshops are ultimately aimed at contributing towards bringing attitudinal and behavioural changes in the participating boys and girls to recognise the importance of gender equality and gender equity, to protect and promote the human rights of girl child and women, to have zero tolerance of all forms of violence against girls and women as well as to ensure the education, emancipation and empowerment of girls and women.

Each workshop, comprises of

  • Thematic interactive lectures by resource persons;
  • Short-duration thematic plays/dramas (either by the participating students under the guidance of theatre artists or by the theatre artists themselves); and
  • Thematic visual art work (painting/and poster-making by the participating students on the themes of gender-based violence under the guidance of the visual artists).

The Organisation has developed orientation materials/modules on GBV for the resource persons. The resource persons as the facilitators, use the orientation modules as per the cultural appropriateness, cultural needs and age-specificities of the targeted secondary and senior secondary school students to promote zero tolerance of all forms of violence against girls and women.

Besides the thematic lectures, visual/and performing arts are used in the workshops to provide a creative platform to the participating students and to enable them to come out with diversity of expressions on the thematic issues addressed by the workshops.

The visual artists guide the selected participating students from the participating schools to work on paintings/and poster-makings on the themes of GBV, 2-3 days before the workshops. The work are displayed on the workshop days for viewing by the students, teachers and guests. The work are collected for further dissemination and display in other workshops.

The theatre artists; who have been working on social sector and women development issues; develop the concepts, scripts and choreographies for short-duration (15-20 minutes) plays on the themes of GBV; particularly on the themes and messages of gender equality, the rights of and the respect for girl child, and zero tolerance of violence against girls and women; and provide 2-3 day training to the selected participating students from the participating schools to stage one or two performances during the workshops.  

The thematic visual art and theatre art work, like thematic lectures, are adapted to the cultural appropriateness, cultural needs and age-specificities of the targeted secondary and senior secondary school students.


The recognition of violence against women as a significant barrier to social and economic development in all parts of the world, including India, has fostered a need for clearer understanding of its early antecedents, and the ways in which young people’s behaviour both mirrors, and sets the stage for adult interactions. There have been increasing reports of gender-based violence in educational settings, but majority of such cases go unreported by the victims or go ignored by the school authorities. The economic imbalances, low literacy rates, basic universal education a goal rather than a reality, specific cultural beliefs and attitudes about gender roles and the negative attitudes of the teachers towards the rights of girls; often result in devastating consequences. The question of gender violence and its impact on health and education is, therefore, particularly critical.

The project has contributed towards promoting gender-sensitive and gender-safe school environment by orienting the students to acquire a greater understanding of the meaning, dimensions, causes and consequences of GBV. At the end of the workshops, the participating students were supposed to be able to:

  • Define gender-based violence;
  • Identify different types and locations of gender-based violence, its main victims and perpetrators;
  • Discuss what gender-based violence is and why it is a violation of women’s human rights;
  • Analyse gender-based violence from the women’s human rights perspective;
  • List common myths that are used to justify gender-based violence;
  • Distinguish between causes of and contributing factors to, gender-based violence;
  • Discuss effects of gender-based violence on women, women’s families, perpetrators, and society as a whole; and
  • Identify integrated social responses to gender-based violence.

The workshops provided a greater awareness to the students on the varied impact of GBV; which included; physical, psychological, and social effects;

  •  The impact of gender-based violence on women’s health:

Gender-based violence has been linked to many serious health problems, both immediate and long-term.  These included physical and psychological health problems:

  • Physical

  • injury,
  • disability,
  • chronic health problems (irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal disorders, various chronic pain syndromes, hypertension, etc.),
  • sexual and reproductive health problems (contracting sexually transmitted diseases, spread of HIV/AIDS, high-risk pregnancies, etc.),
  • death.
  •  Psychological

  • Effects can be both direct/ indirect:
  • Direct: anxiety, fear, mistrust of others, inability to concentrate, loneliness, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicide, etc.  
  • Indirect: psychosomatic illnesses, withdrawal, alcohol or drug use.
  •   Economic and social impact:

  •  rejection, ostracism and social stigma at community level;
  •  reduced ability to participate in social and economic activities;
  • acute fear of future violence, which extends beyond the individual survivors to other members in community;
  • damage to women’s confidence resulting in fear of venturing into public spaces (this can often curtail women’s education, which in turn can limit their income-generating opportunities);
  • increased vulnerability to other types of gender-based violence;
  • job loss due to absenteeism as a result of violence;
  • negative impact on women’s income generating power;
  •   The impact on women’s family and dependants:

  • Direct effects:

  • divorce, or broken families;
  • jeopardized family’s economic and emotional development;
  • babies born with health disorders as a result of violence experienced by the mother during pregnancy (i.e. premature birth or low birth weight);
  • increased likelihood of violence against children growing up in households where there is domestic violence;
  • collateral effects on children who witness violence at home (emotional and behavioural disturbances, e.g. withdrawal, low self-esteem, nightmares, self-blame, aggression against peers, family members, and property; increased risk of growing up to be either a perpetrator or a victim of violence).
  • Indirect effects:
  • compromised ability of survivor to care for her children (e.g. child malnutrition and neglect due to constraining effect of violence on women’s livelihood strategies and their bargaining position in marriage);
  • ambivalent or negative attitudes of a rape survivor towards the resulting child.
  • The impact of violence on the perpetrators:

  • sanctioning by community, facing arrest and imprisonment;
  • legal restrictions on seeing their families, divorce, or the break up of their families;
  • feeling of alienation from their families;
  • minimizing the significance of violence for which they are responsible; deflecting the responsibility for violence onto their partner and failure to associate it with their relationship;
  • increased tension in the home.
  • The impact of violence on society:

  • burden on health and judicial systems;

  • hindrance to economic stability and growth through women’s lost productivity;

  • hindrance to women’s participation in the development processes and lessening of their contribution to social and economic development;

  • constrained ability of women to respond to rapid social, political, or economic change;

  • breakdown of trust in social relationships;

  • weakened support networks on which people’s survival strategies depend;

  • strained and fragmented networks that are of vital importance in strengthening the capabilities of communities in times of stress and upheaval.        

The project ultimately contributed towards promoting gender-supportive, health-promoting and child-friendly school system in State of Assam as well as protected the health of both young girls and boys as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being (WHO definition).

The project by promoting a deeper understanding of the causes and consequences of gender-based violence; provided knowledge to the young students and develop their attitudes and skills to make positive decisions and to take actions to promote and protect one’s health and the health of others.

The goals of the project, which adopted the strategic objectives, set out by WHO; could be replicated by any inter-governmental or non-governmental agency to promote school-related gender-based violence in school settings. GBV is a global public health and human rights problem. It has wide-spread and far-reaching health impact. The project, therefore, could be replicated in the formal school system not only in India; but anywhere in the world, with suitable adaptations.

The project aimed at bringing behavioural and attitudinal changes for minimisation and elimination of GBV as well as for promoting and protecting health of adolescent and young students in the school set-up. The project has sought to mainstream gender perspective in the school educational process so that the inequality and inequity between girls and boys are not perpetuated; and the gender inequalities and inequities that disadvantage the adolescent girls’ health are reduced and eliminated to enable both the girls and boys to attain the highest standards in their health and well-being.

The project, therefore, contributed towards engendered, equitable, healthy and sustainable human development for the young people.

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