Ishani Calls for Safe Schools for Girls

“We face harassment while travelling in buses, walking on the street, even in schools,” says 2016 LEADer Ishani.

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This post was written by  Bidhyalaxmi Maharjan, Women LEAD’s Communication Intern

“I want girls to feel safe everywhere because they are unsafe not just in public places but also in their own colleges and school,” Ishani said when she was asked what she wanted for girls during #WhatIReallyReallyWant Campaign sometime ago this year. “My my mother’s friends and neighbours admire me simply because I don’t go out often. They say I am a good girl because I like staying in home.It makes me realize the fear parents have about their daughter’s safety,” Ishani added.

Ishani notices a sense of insecurity among people about the safety of girls outside the boundary of their houses. She confirms their fear. “We face harassment while travelling in buses, walking on the street, even in schools,” she adds. What shocks Ishani is that girls face such harassment even in school. “Many of the girl students receive unwanted touching from a male teacher. The insincere politeness of male teacher when they talk to girls, which remains absent when they talk to boys, makes us feel uncomfortable,” says Ishani.

School is expected to be a place where students are safe and protected.What Ishani mentions is a few forms of School-Related Gender Violence (SRGBV), that estimated 246 million girls and boys go through every year at school according to UN Women. United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative “acts of sexual, physical or psychological violence inflicted on children in and around schools because of stereotypes and roles or norms attributed to or expected of them because of their sex or gendered identity. It also refers to the differences between girls’ and boys’ experience of and vulnerabilities to violence.”

Although corporal punishment are reported, students find it difficult to report sexual assaults perpetrated by teachers on them. Because of which such sexual violence rarely come to the surface. “The behavior of teachers might not be explicit, but such behaviors make us feel very uncomfortable. Teachers should themselves be thoughtful about the impact their behaviors,” says Ishani. A 2012 study conducted by Himalayan Human Rights Monitor conducted in seven districts of Terai found that 16.2% of sexual violence perpetrators against girls are teachers.

The inadequacy about the knowledge about sexual violence contributes to low reporting of sexual assaults in the school setting. “I think we need to organize massive awareness campaign to inform students and teachers about what makes girls feel unsafe in and around schools and what consists of sexual assaults so that it becomes easier for us to bring up such assaults. Such activities will create conducive environment to report harassment in schools,” Ishani adds.

As part of LEAD Course, Ishani is running the School Leadership Program (SLP) in Southwestern School, where she and her co-LEADer will run sessions on violence against women and girls and street harassment. “We have both boys and girls in the SLP, so it will help us create awareness among young students about harassment in school and help them speak up against harassment they face in and out of school,”says Ishani.

 

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