As part of a global call for all national governments to step up their action on the issue of violence against women and girls, Plan Canada has launched an online letter-writing campaign that encourages Canadians to join the call for a national action plan to end school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV).
The letter-writing campaign comes on the heels of a joint report, A Girl's Right to Learn Without Fear, released in Canada late last year by Plan Canada and the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law, International Human Rights Program. The report found that SRGBV is a major factor threatening the education of children, especially young girls, in many countries of the world, including Canada. The campaign urges Canadians to write to their local MPs, asking them to support a national action plan to end violence against all children, with a strong focus on gender in the school context.
"Globally, Canada is recognized as a country committed to promoting the rights of women and girls, including the right to education," says Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO of Plan Canada. "Our government has taken important steps to reducing violence and we applaud that commitment but there is more work to be done. We know from our research, and even news headlines, that children frequently experience bullying and physical or sexual violence. We have an opportunity to change that, to take action."
A Girl's Right to Learn Without Fear, which defines SRGBV as "acts of sexual, physical, or psychological violence inflicted on children in and around schools because of their sex or gender identity," reports that:
· Globally, between 500 million and 1.5 billion children experience violence every year, many in and around the institutions we trust most - our schools.
· In Canada, nearly a quarter of Canadian girls, and at least 15 per cent of boys, have experienced sexual violence before they reach 16.
· Many Canadian children, particularly girls from marginalized communities, continue to be vulnerable to different forms of violence within their school lives.
· A national Canadian survey also found that almost two-thirds of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQ) students feel unsafe at school and many LGBTQ students, and other students who don't fit gendered norms, are suffering from frequent incidents of verbal, physical, and online violence within their school lives.
While it was released here in Canada in December 2012, A Girl's Right to Learn Without Fear will now see its global launch through Plan International's Because I am a Girl initiative at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women on March 5. This will come just days ahead of this year's International Women's Day with its theme of "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for all governments to commit to the "adoption and implementation of multi-sectoral national action plans" through the 'UNiTE to end violence against women and girls' campaign. Plan's report supports this call, adding that national action plans should be gender-responsive, take into account the diversity of experiences and needs of marginalized girls and boys, and look specifically at violence within the school context.
"All children deserve to feel and be safe in their learning environments and an education is a critical part of their growth and development as human beings and as future citizens of our world," adds McCarney. "Violence in our schools requires our urgent attention and taking the small but collective action of writing to our MPs is one way Canadians can drive big change on this important global issue."
Canadians who wish to participate in the letter-writing campaign can do so online or through a mail-in option. For more information and to get involved, visit: http://becauseiamagirl.ca/Support-the-right-of-girls-to-learn-without-fear
About Plan and the 'Because I am a Girl' initiative
Founded in 1937, Plan is one of the world's oldest and largest international development agencies, working in partnership with millions of people around the world to end global poverty. Not for profit, independent and inclusive of all faiths and cultures, Plan has only one agenda: to improve the lives of children. Because I am a Girl is Plan's global initiative to end gender inequality, promote girls' rights and lift millions of girls - and everyone around them - out of poverty. Visit www.plancanada.ca and www.becauseiamagirl.ca for more information.