Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All

25 November 2015

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.

16 Days FB CoverEducation 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.

This year’s campaign invites anyone willing to participate and help in the fight to secure education for all, welcoming participants to play an active role in their own communities. Go to the website to find out more.

/by Isabel May Bull [ba-divider style=”solid” color=”#000000″]

Photo of Isabel May Bull
Isabel May Bull

About the author

Isabel May Bull is a student, studying Politics and French at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, with a particular interest in gender politics and International Relations. She is currently on an Erasmus year abroad at The University of Geneva studying Translation (French and English).

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Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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