Hidden paradigms and solutions

FEB 05 -

Recent reports in the media show the rising frequency of gender-based violence in Nepal. In this context, several women activists, concerned I/NGOs and government bodies have focussed their efforts on reducing such incidents. However, while doing so, they do not seem to have taken into account some effective strategies to resolve this issue in the long-term.

First, the involvement of men in all the programmes targeted at reducing violence against women is crucial. In the international context, many initiatives, like the White Ribbon Campaign, have involved men in such programmes. These projects that focus on men have developed an approach that analyses

and challenges gender inequalities and the concept of masculinity. Here, men are not seen as the problem but as allies and partners who are also part of the solution. Since men and boys are important agents for changing attitudes, behaviour and the wider power relations that sustain gender-based violence, existing strategies and programmes should be amended to include men’s involvement. They also have the capacity to play crucial roles as protectors, supporters and partners and can utilise their position to positively influence gender power relations.

Second, programmes to tackle gender-based violence should implemented at the school level. Many of the current programmes are only media-oriented, like the rally focussed on Singha Durbar and Baluwatar. These programmes do not reach rural areas, where most of such incidents take place. In our context, such programmes should be focussed on the school-level as there are schools in every part of the country. If the school-going students are taught about the consequences of gender-based violence, then there would surely be a satisfactory improvement during violent situations. What is needed is a complete school approach, involving the management, teachers, pupils and the curriculum. This programme should be inclusive and gender responsive.

Third, there are several discriminatory norms and values that exist in society and distinguish males and females into traditional gender roles. Education for sons and daughters are perceived differently. In general, schooling for boys is perceived as necessary and given more emphasis than schooling for girls. Parents do not consider schooling their daughters as they believe that their investment will go to waste once their daughters are married off. To combat this deeply-entrenched belief, the government brought forth several schemes, incentives and scholarships to increase female participation in school. These initiatives have brought satisfactory changes but for the wrong reasons. Parents are sending their daughters to school not because they are aware of the necessity of education but because of the benefits they receive from incentive programmes. Parental awareness programmes about gender-based violence would be a sustainable solution to this problem.Fourth, several school-based programmes and practices have been implemented internationally to cope with gender discrimination in schools and society. However, we have no such packages to implement. Several donor agencies have focussed on gender discrimination but there has been no initiative to implement these programmes at the national level. For example, The Fourth R is a 21-lesson curriculum-based programme to build healthy relationships between girls and boys in school and is implemented in grade nine in Canada. This programme has made significant contributions towards a gender-responsive school and society.

Likewise, The Roots of Empathy programme, implemented in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Ireland and Scotland, is delivered to schoolchildren from Kindergarten to grade eight with aiming at violence prevention, emotional literacy and perspective taking.

Similarly, the Living Values programme, supported by Unesco, takes a rights-based approach to foster positive self-development and social cooperation in children and young people and operates in schools in 66 countries. It offers 12 critical social values—cooperation, freedom, happiness, honesty, humility, love, peace, respect, responsibility, simplicity, tolerance and unity.

Finally, preventing gender-based violence is a complex and challenging task. In order to achieve a change in attitude, it is important to address familial, organisational, community and societal norms, along with traditional gender roles, attitudes and social practices. Changing the mindset of the younger generation of societies can greatly improve the situation. For this, gender-sensitive curriculum is a necessity but most curriculum drafters and textbook writers are male and not sensitive to gender issues. The failure of educational authorities to acknowledge the existence of gender discrimination in schools is another problem. There is lack of research exploring issues such as how victims’ perceptions of how violent behaviour affects their personal and professional life, the evaluation of strategies employed to cope with violent situations and the support provided by the relevant authorities to combat such situations.

To build a concrete response to gender-based violence, we need to start from the schools, along with men’s involvement, so that future generations will not have to struggle with discrimination and women will not have to endure violence solely because of their sex.


Posted on: 2013-02-05 08:34