This Wednesday the 25th of November marks the start of this year’s 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.
This year’s theme is “From peace in the home to peace in the world: make education safe for all”, with the campaign centring on militarism and the right to education, including how violent conflict can destroy educational opportunities, for girls in particular.
Education is not a privilege, it is a right as Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to education”. Article 28 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child also expresses this sentiment, stating furthermore that “State parties [should] … in particular … Make primary education compulsory and available free to all [as well as] … Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates”.
Sadly, however, militarism is one the main threats to education as highlighted in this year’s campaign’s announcement page. The announcement page goes on to underline that “Girls and young women in particular are most adversely impacted by insecurity and crisis.” Two such main consequences of violent conflict.
The recent conflict in Syria can paint more than adequately the devastating educational costs of warfare and violent conflict. As ‘Small Hands Heavy Burden’, a UNICEF and Save the Children report from July 2015, notes, before the war Syria had a reported 90 percent literacy rate. Now, tragically, near to 3 million Syrian children are out of education.
Inside of Syria about a quarter of schools are out of use either because they have been damaged or destroyed, or are now used for other purposes, such as shelters for the elderly and wounded.
Another Save the Children report, ‘Futures Under Threat’ from 2014, testifies that according to the Syrian Ministry of Education more than 52,500 teaching staff have been lost, a figure that equates to 22 percent of the pre-war workforce. Furthermore, in Aleppo just 6 percent of children still go to school.
The report poignantly stresses that “Education has never been deadlier for Syria’s children.”
Outside of Syria approximately half of Syrian child refugees are not receiving any education at all, according to ‘The Cost of War’ a report jointly penned by Save the Children, the CFBT Educational Trust and the American Institutes for Research.
Majd Chourbaji, the representative for Women Now for Development in Lebanon, highlights that this is a problem in particular for those in Lebanon, which has taken in over 1.14 million Syrian refugees. Due to this great influx there is not enough space for Syrian children in Lebanese schools.
In order to combat this she points out that the Lebanese government and UNICEF have organised for Syrian children to attend afternoon classes after Lebanese children’s classes have finished.
However, she also notes that since these schooling sessions finish in the late evening, due to their later start, many Syrian families are unwilling to send their daughters to school. They are fearful for their daughters to be out late.
As this example shows, it’s girls who suffer the most in these circumstances. When it comes to education, violence often causes gender differentials.
Patricia Justino’s 2010 report for the UN educational, scientific and Cultural Organisation on how armed conflict affects education, states that exactly this was one of the main themes to arise from her review.
She suggests that families affected by violent conflict may choose to devote more to ensure schooling for their boys as it is perceived that they are less at risk of “violence, harassment or abduction,” upholding what Majd Chourbaji has seen on the ground in Lebanon.
Justino also indicates that since in times of conflict job opportunities often diminish and males are often more likely to obtain higher paid jobs, it may seem to make more economic sense to educate boys.
Save the Children’s ‘Futures Under Threat’ report also offers insight into why this is. In times of conflict many girls are instead married off in order to overcome varying types of insecurity, and sadly girls who are married are less likely to continue with their education.
Adding to the importance of this year’s campaign, 2015 is also the target date of the Millennium Development Goals, which includes the two aims to ensure universal primary education and the promotion of gender equality.
Though both goals have been more than partially fulfilled and this should be applauded, as the situation in Syria and the need for such a campaign show, conflicts and how we deal with education in conflict zones have seriously hindered our ability to fully realise these two goals.
Each year the 16 Days Campaign is coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, which is a part of Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences in the United States. Running for the last 24 years, the 25th of November was chosen as the starting date of the campaign as it coincides with International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In turn the 16th and final day of the campaign, the 10th of December, coincides with Human Rights Day.