16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is a world-wide campaign running annually from 25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, until 10th December, Human Rights Day. The campaign calls for the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls and has been used by activists, campaigners, policy makers, and in educational establishments, to raise awareness and galvanise support to tackle women’s inequality.

This year, 30 years since the first 16 Days of Activism took place, we look at the scale of the problem, what is being done to tackle it, and how teachers can make a difference.

As is clear when looking at the scale of the problem, we know that many of our members reading this article will have lived experience of gender-based violence. Please look after your wellbeing, and consider reaching out to your rep, or one of the organisations mentioned in this article, for support.

Gender based violence – the scale of the problem

There can be no doubt that violence against women and girls is endemic in our society, and, that it is entirely dependent on a culture of misogynistic attitudes to continue. Zero Tolerance warned in 2020, that sexual crimes are at their highest level ever since 1971 – but only 22% of survivors of rape and 12% of survivors of other types of sexual crimes ever report to the police. Conviction rates for rapes and attempted rapes remain low. Police statistics tell us that around 1 in 4 women in Scotland will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, but due to underreporting, this is likely to be higher.

  • A TUC study found that 52% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, and in the vast majority of cases, the perpetrator was a male colleague.
  • Girl guiding Scotland found, in 2018, that just over 21% of girls and young women in Scotland aged 13-25 experience sexual harassment at school, college or university. Since June 2020, 51% of girls in the UK have experienced public sexual harassment.

In terms of women who face intersecting forms of inequality, disabled women are twice as likely to be victims of gender-based violence, BME and migrant women face higher levels of domestic homicide, and 83% of trans women have experienced a hate crime at some point in their lives.

Since 8th March 2021, Everyone’s Invited has published over 54,000 survivor testimonies, exposing a horrific ‘rape culture’ within UK schools, colleges, and universities, including many in Scotland.

Making education equally safe for women and girls

“As the school Child Protection Officer I was privy to a lot of information that gave me an insight into the extent of the problem of gender based violence. I could see first hand the impact of the problem on children and families.” Andrew Boyle, St Joseph’s Academy

The vision of the Scottish Government’s Equally Safe Strategy is for a Scotland where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse, and the attitudes that perpetuate it – where everyone is equally safe and respected. The strategy recognises that although not all women and girls will personally experience violence, the fear of violence, the knowledge of other women’s experiences and the burden of responsibility for mitigating the risk of violence, all work together to impact women’s lives, their wellbeing, and their freedom. Gender inequality is a cause and consequence of violence against women and girls.

In August of this year, Rape Crisis Scotland launched Equally Safe at School (ESAS), a whole school and holistic approach for secondary schools to prevent gender-based violence. The model emphasises staff and students working together to progress towards the Curriculum for Excellence Health and Wellbeing outcomes, Getting It Right for Every Child and Equally Safe.

Equally Safe at School was piloted with schools between 2017 and 2021, and is now available as an interactive website, giving teachers, pupils and school leadership teams free tools, information, and resources.

“I can’t emphasise enough how motivating it was for me as the ESAS school lead to see so many pupils who wanted to be part of a movement to tackle gender based violence. I’m really proud of our young people for that. I’m also really proud that all of the ideas that we are progressing to address the issues have come from the young people themselves. Their ideas are to develop clear, consistent procedures on responses to sexual harassment, to make pupils more aware of specialist GBV support services via a poster campaign and to put in place a peer education programme that focuses on homophobia and transphobia in schools. “ David Robertson, Lesmahagow High School

Similarly to Equally Safe at School, the Equally Safe in Higher Education Toolkit is a free resource to inform prevention strategies for a whole campus response.

“What I really liked about the ESAS approach was that it involved the whole school and was really comprehensive. We had school assemblies which gave the opportunity for any pupil in the school to be involved in leading the intervention by joining the Action Group, which is quite rare. That unique selection process that was open to anyone really paid off because we ended up with so much enthusiasm and commitment from the pupils who signed up.” Andrew Boyle, St Joseph’s Academy

Teachers making a difference

The EIS is involved with a wide range of work to tackle and prevent violence against women and girls and continues to work closely with expert organisations, such as Rape Crisis Scotland. Our work includes providing advice for members on tackling violence against women, tackling sexual harassment in educational establishments and on challenging misogynistic attitudes in school, so we can get it right for girls and women.

Everyone deserves to be safe at their work, and in their education. Last year, the EIS marked 16 Days of Action on Gender Based Violence, by filming a series of conversations with four GBV experts about how to understand the dynamics of GBV for different groups, and how our members can make a difference.

Violence against women and girls will affect many of those in the teaching profession, and many of our pupils and students, greatly impacting their participation, learning and achievement.

16 Days of Activism provides a great springboard and platform for raising awareness, and educating children and young people on healthy relationships, consent and gender equality, which are all key measures to preventing violence against women and girls. To ensure commitment throughout the year, the whole school approach of Equally Safe at School would support the embedding of the ambitions of this important campaign.

Worried about gender-based violence?

If you are worried about gender-based violence, please consider seeking support from your EIS Rep and/or Local Association Secretary who will be able to offer advice and support in relation to your work, wellbeing and safety.

If you are worried that a child or young person under the age of 16 may be at risk of or is experiencing abuse:

  • Follow Child Protection procedures as appropriate
  • Contact or pass on details for Childline, if you are sure it is safe to do so.

If you are concerned about a colleague for this reason:

  • TUC have developed specific guidance for reps on supporting colleagues who may be experiencing domestic abuse and the EIS has guidance on VAWG and sexual harassment
  • Share details of organisations that can support, if it is safe to do so.

What services can help?

Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline
Offers advice and support for anyone who is concerned about themselves, or someone they know who might experience domestic abuse. 24-hour helpline: 0800 027 1234 email: helpline@sdafmh.org.uk webchat: https://sdafmh.org.uk/

Local support services for women and children
There are local Women’s Aid groups across Scotland. Helpline: 0800 027 1234 email: helpline@sdafmh.org.uk

Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline
Offers free and confidential crisis and short-term support, including information via phone or email. www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/help-helpline/

Support to help perpetrators choose to stop
Free phone line, Monday to Friday: 0808 802 4040 https://respectphoneline.org.uk Call 999 if you believe someone could be in immediate physical danger.