Schoolgirls Around the World Live in Constant Fear of Abuse

A worrying number of girls in the UK – and worldwide – experience harassment, violence and bullying at school every day. On International Day of the Girl, Annie Ridout looks into these issues…

Research reveals that 150 million girls worldwide experience sexual violence each year – much of it taking place at school – with 60% of girls aged 13-21 in the UK having reported sexual harassment at school or college.

These staggering statistics are being circulated by children’s charity Plan UK who, as well as working to eradicate female genital mutilation and child marriage, are calling for greater protection of students globally, as part of their Because I am a Girl campaign.

“School should be a safe place, but for millions of girls worldwide, that’s not the case,” says Plan UK CEO, Tanya Barron. “We’re calling on the public to help us raise awareness of violence in and around school, and to support our work around the world to tackle the attitudes that allow such violence to occur.”

Back in 2011, the UN declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl; an opportunity to focus on issues concerning gender inequality the world over, and for activists to come together, strategise and take action. These statistics highlight the extent of the work that is yet to be done.

The research revealed that 50% of girls feel unsafe on their way to school or using toilet facilities, fearing they may be attacked physically, sexually, verbally or psychologically. This aspect of gender inequality has real consequences: with a proportion of the 62 million girls worldwide who are out of school citing fear of violence as the reason.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, says: “An education is one of the most beautiful gifts we can ever hope to receive. That this is threatened for so many by medieval attitudes to equality is one of the world’s worst human rights abuses.”

A film released as part of the Because I am a Girl campaign aims to highlight the daily struggle girls experience at school. Barron hopes that Plan UK’s work can “help us ensure that every girl can learn without fear.”

There will also be short documentary films featuring real-life stories of girls in Kenya and Cambodia who have experienced different forms of school violence. For more information or to join the campaign, visit Plan UK’s Because I am a Girl website.

Photo credit: Plan/Sala Lewis