16 Days of activism: Bringing gender-based violence in education into focus

By Hedda Lippus, PhD researcher, University of Tartu/Emory University

The 25th of November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Historically the date marks the day on which the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered three political activists – the Mirabal sisters – to be assassinated for openly fighting his regime. Hedda blog 2 Since 1999 the United Nations has on this day especially drawn attention to the violence women and girls experience all over the world. This year’s theme of the UN-led campaign is “Together We Can End Gender-Based Violence in Education!”, and since the 10th of December is the International Human Rights Day, the 16 days in between are devoted to actions calling for elimination of all forms of gender-based violence (GBV). The aim of these 16 days of activism is to achieve higher visibility of GBV as a violation of human rights, and not just a “problem for women”, or “women’s issue”. Every year an activist toolkit is published to help planning of local campaigns and introduce the issue, and this year the toolkit includes suggestions for advocacy focused on institutional, legal, and policy change, i.e. for effective laws, policies and institutions that effectively prevent and address GBV in education that tie GBV and human rights frameworks.

Gender-based violence refers to violence that targets people or groups on the basis of their gender, and although men, women, boys and girls can be exposed to GBV, the overwhelming majority affected by GBV are women, and therefore the terms GBV and violence against women are often used interchangeably. According to a WHO report from 2013 the global prevalence of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence among all ever-partnered women was 30.0%. The prevalence was highest in the WHO African, Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions, where approximately 37% of ever-partnered women reported having experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. Furthermore, the study carried out by the European Agency for Fundamental rights in 2014 found that in the European Union 33% of women have been exposed to physical and/or sexual violence by partner or non-partner since the age of 15. GBV exists everywhere in the world and is in no way only a problem of developing societies, the “Global South” or low-income countries, as biased thought patterns would lead people to assume.

Hedda blog 1The data concerning the prevalence of GBV specifically in education and in schools, however, is unfortunately very limited compared to the more general data cited above, and thus the full scale of the problem is unknown. Much research about violence against children has neglected the aspect of gender, although most forms of school violence are also deeply rooted in gender inequalities and norms. The studies that are available show the large extent of GBV in schools. A study in the Netherlands found that 27% of students had been sexually harassed by school personnel (Mncube and Harber, 2013). In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that one in three 16–18 year olds have experienced unwanted sexual touching in schools (EWAN, 2015). This violence that is taking place in schools is not isolated from wider society, it reflects the underlying gender norms and stereotypes, and acceptability of violence.

GBV in the schools has a negative impact on the educational attainment and the quality of school life as it creates an unhealthy atmosphere, mistrust, feelings of not belonging, low self-esteem, anxiety and isolation, and increases absenteeism, academic failures and the number of dropouts. Violence against women is rooted in gender inequality and stereotypes. Gender norms and stereotypes are taught to children starting from their early childhood. Girls are taught to be silent, submissive and beautiful princesses and boys have to be tough, not cry. Children who see violent behaviour in their childhood learn that it is an acceptable way for solving conflicts. Violence in its nature is trans-generational, witnessing or experiencing it in the childhood increases the risk to become violent or become re-victimised in the adulthood. Witnessing family violence increases also the risk for children becoming violent toward their mother. Worldwide 176 million- one in four children under age five are living with a mother who is a victim of intimate partner violence.

In my native country Estonia the quality of primary and secondary education is considered to be one of the best in Europe, everyone’s right to education is enshrined in the Constitution, and education is free. Estonian women are more educated than men, but at the same time at home children are exposed to stereotypical gender roles as the majority of unpaid care work is still done by women. Furthermore, the gender pay gap in Estonia is one of the biggest in the European Union reaching almost 30%, but some politicians publicly justify this injustice and claim that the reason behind this is “just biological” and “why do women not ask for more money then”. I wonder how can we expect that girls who are taught to be quiet and submissive in the childhood to suddenly change when they grow up and take on leading roles? How can we expect that they will suddenly feel comfortable stepping up against harassment and violence? The more I have learned about the consequences and roots of GBV, the more I have begun to understand the importance of what we teach children – and not only that we teach them foreign languages and mathematics, but what we teach about what they can do and who they can become. GBV is a social justice issue, and a question of power relations. It is valuable to have such global campaigns to make GBV more visible as I believe that a lot of people, including parents and teachers, need to be educated about the ways gender stereotypes can really hurt children and lead to GBV. Thus, this campaign should be seen as an opportunity to speak and write about GBV, so that it could become more and more difficult to ignore.

This post originally appeared on the Centre for Cultures of Reproduction, Technologies and Health blog, 04.12.17

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Posted in Global Health, Rights

The Brighton Global Health and Development Community: A Case of Timing

The breadth of Global Health in its most conceptual sense, is a spectrum that encompasses every facet of human existence. Amidst the capricious complexities that come with a twenty-first century globalised world, it is our state of health and wellbeing that provides us with a powerful sense of connection and common humanity. To achieve Global Health’s ever-growing ambitions, no one or group can be excluded, however, as the discipline continues to evolve, some of its key proponents remain rooted in the conventional praxis of healthcare and development, often to the detriment of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Installed among some of the newest academic health disciplines, its essence promotes a multi-disciplinary approach to research and practice, inclusive of a wide range of stakeholders and participants. In their pursuit of tackling the political, economic, environmental and social determinants of health, Global Health initiatives act as a nexus bringing actors from an array of industries and disciplines together, combining expertise and strengths in the process. Despite some outdated methodology, increasingly Global Health organisations are reaping the benefit of sharing resources to meet health needs and untangling some of the greatest social challenges of our time, benefiting from innovation in strategy crafted by global perspectives with percipience beyond the realm of healthcare’s traditional biomedical narrative.

As collaborations between diverse areas of expertise continue to grow and find success in Global Health and Development goals, such a culture change should be considered in the way in which the next generation of health and development leaders mature, calling into question the current nature of education for the future changemakers. Indeed, the overnight eruption of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Global Health signifies tremendous progress being made, however all too often, their focus can be overly specific and incapable of engaging the mainstream.

In order to fully prepare for multi-disciplinary careers in Global Health and International Development that reflect the changing tides, is there enough broader training and collaboration at the educational level?

Global Health’s presence in higher education is still in its relative infancy, having only outstripped International Health references in the academic literature as recently as 2004. Despite this, enormous strides have been made in expanding the profile of the discipline and its integration within broader social science academic circles with increasing numbers of modules and courses available for social science and non-medical students. Within medical education in the UK, the inclusion of Global Health student selected components (SSCs) have enabled the key themes and concepts to become more accessible to student doctors with a keen interest. Whilst largely absent from mainstream compulsory curricula, this contrasts sharply with Global Health and Development activity among many higher education echelons in North America, which quintessentially comprise a more comprehensive and cross-disciplinary topography.

A critical mass of enthusiasm and demand is palpable in the UK, owed to successive generations of students who are increasingly interested in the detail of a healthy human race and of the relationship between globalisation and the broader determinants of health and wellbeing. Fostering a vibrant Global Health community at an educational level has the potential to further increase the profile of Global Health and its promotion in the wider health and development agenda. Indeed, we are at a turning point in higher education and in particular in the training of tomorrow’s doctors.

This increased interest in engaging with Global Health and International Development issues, coupled with the growing collaborative zeitgeist has inspired a nascent local Global Health and Development community at the Universities of Sussex, Brighton and Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

Recent years have been exceptionally successful for the staff and students of these institutions, and there is evidence to show that such a realisation of cross-discipline approaches are emerging. The Refugee Crisis conference which took place in Spring 2017, hosted by Friends of MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières), Students for Global Health (previously ‘Medsin’) and Sussex Lawyers without Borders – Student Division, broadened horizons and helped cross-pollinate perspectives. There has also been increasing recognition of the world-class in-house Global Health and International Development institutions, who were able to support the delivery of the 2nd Annual Sussex Global Health and Development Conference in March 2017, the largest of its kind in the UK.

Beyond events however, there is an unmet need to construct the architecture to enable a cross-disciplinary Global Health and Development community to flourish, and to provide the space for the next generation of academics, policy makers and practitioners to better understand the unique perspectives involved in tackling health inequality around the globe. The possibility of research initiatives, curriculum enhancement, student teaching opportunities, career mentorship and multi-year projects become appreciably more attainable, transforming the capabilities of what Global Health societies are able to achieve.

Installing and supporting a formal Global Health and Development community in Brighton, encompassing the diversity of student groups, reinforced by the support of leading local figures, is therefore critical to the future success of Global Health and has the potential to open up opportunities and horizons that would previously be considered unfathomable. A future that reaps the benefit of such a culture-shift hinges on our collective ability to appreciate our mutual agendas and advocate more effectively for the world’s marginalised, as a unified community.

Such a community starts here.

This post is by Amaran Cumarasamy, Co-founder of CORBIS Global Health– a multi-disciplinary consortium of global health academics, practitioners and students based at the University of Sussex.
The original post can be found on the CORBIS blog here


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Posted in Global Health, Health

Brexit, Trump and the Implications for Development- A Review

by Laura Bennett

Given the events that continue to dominate world politics, I was only too eager to attend the talk entitled ‘Brexit, Trump and the Implications for Development’, featuring a very diverse range of speakers. The discussion was chaired by Simon Maxwell, an emeritus fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). The panel itself consisted of: Michael Anderson, Centre for Global Development; Priya Deshingkar, Research Director, Migrating out of Poverty Research Consortium, University of Sussex; Peter Kyle MP, Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade (Labour); Clionadh Raleigh, Professor Of Human Geography, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex.

The discussion began with an opening statement from Director of IDS, Melissa Leach. Melissa noted that the growth of right wing populism we have been seeing is threatening the fundamental values and material dimensions which are essential to development. We therefore need to understand why this populism has grown by understanding the feelings of marginalisation which have led to the protest votes. Simon developed on this, arguing that we need to think about what we have learnt from populism and be analytical about the situation in order to learn from it. This is where the panelists came in.

Michael argued for the successes of globalisation. He noted that the internationalisation of the economy since 1945 has brought about successes such as human rights, movement of knowledge and trade, a facilitation of communication and travel and a reduction of conflict and violence. He noted that it was the economic recession which brought about the current situations and not globalisation. We should acknowledge the issues with globalisation but not condemn it completely.

Priya put forward the argument that the feelings we have been seeing regarding refugees and migrants in the USA and UK are not stand alone. These thoughts and feelings are much the same in the global south. It was noted that migration is viewed as a mainly negative thing as these negative aspects are overemphasised by policy makers and the urban elite. We should therefore be focusing on the reasons why people are moving and attempting to do something about that.

Peter gave an interesting contribution as he was speaking from a local level, which is rarely something which goes hand in hand with the word development. It was argued that people living in small communities are not interested in what academics and experts have to say. They are not interested in facts or evidence as they are too happy that somebody is now fighting for their team. We should be aiming to understand the small towns in Dover just as much as we want to understand wider issues.

Clionadh did not feel as strongly about the case for globalisation as Michael did. She noted that conflict and inequality have increased in places gaining from humanitarian aid from the UK and USA. It is because we both securitise underdevelopment and ignore it because of our own domestic issues that this happens. Development will never achieve what it should if we carry on this way, even without instances such as Brexit and Trump.

As you may be able to tell there were a range of differing and competing ideas about the relationship between events in the UK and USA and development. One thing which resonated in everyone’s comments however was the idea of communication. By making academic work more accessible for the masses, there may be more of an actual understanding of the implications of events such as Brexit and Trump. Only through an actual understanding of what is going on can we attempt to change it. Instead of attacking those we do not understand and who do not understand us, we need to try to communicate with one another.

I would therefore like to leave this round up with the same thing that Simon did, a glimmer of positivity. Simon noted that Martin Luther King did not stand up and say ‘I have a nightmare’, and as much as it may feel like one, we probably shouldn’t either.


Laura Bennett is an MA student in Human Rights at Sussex, where she also completed her BA in Anthropology . She has a special interest in minority groups and how their inequality can be analysed from both a societal level and a personal one.

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Liberia, Ebola and the Pitfalls of State-building

by Priska Dibiasi
The Sussex Africa Centre and the Institute of Development Studies recently invited Dr Robtel Neajai Pailey from the University of Oxford to discuss her latest research at a joint event. She presented her findings at the event entitled “Liberia, Ebola, and the Pitfalls of State-building: Reimagining Public Authority ‘Inside’ and ‘Outside the Post-war State”.
Dr. Pailey argued that public authority goes beyond the domain of a state and suggests that ‘public authority’ also has a horizontal and a spacial dimension. Therefore ‘Inside’ also includes actors such as communities, non-governmental organisations, and civilians, while ‘outside’ includes the diaspora – individuals as well as organisations.

Dr. Pailey giving her talk

She demonstrated her argument by providing a case study of Liberia and the recent Ebola outbreak in 2014. She found that initially traditional actors of public authority were failing in their task to tackle the Ebola crisis and argues that an extended ‘public authority’ filled this vacuum for instance by offering churches, mosques or football fields as service delivery sites, by forming tasks forces, by increasing remittances as the economy was shut down during the height of the crisis.
Finally, she pointed out that the response in Liberia to the Ebola crisis is indicative of nation-building as Liberians had for the first time a ‘common enemy’ in the disease.
I found Neajai Pailey’s argument very interesting and am looking forward to reading a more detailed account of her research once it will be published in the African Affairs journal. I am particularly interested to find out more about her argument regarding the common response as indicator of nation-building and how this might connect to Charles Tilly’s (1985) argument of war-making and state-making and its possible indications for theoretical debates about the expansion of the international security discourse to include for instance threats relating to health or the environment.

Priska Dibiasi is an MA student in International Security at the School of Global Studies. She completed her BA in Political Management at the University of Applied Sciences Bremen, Germany. Previously, she was an intern at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. and at the Italian international development charity Help without Frontiers. Her research interests include conflict, mediation and sustainable peace (-building) and more general in the international politics of the sub-Sahara African region, the USA, Europe and Eurasia.

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Posted in Ebola, Global Health, International Relations, Uncategorized

Anthropology between Europe and the Pacific: Values and Prospects for a Relationship Beyond Relativism

by Laura Bennett, MA Human Rights

As part of the School of Global Studies Anthropology seminar series, I recently went along to hear Joel Robbins, a Social Anthropology professor at Cambridge, discuss his research entitled ‘Anthropology between Europe and the Pacific: Values and Prospects for a Relationship Beyond Relativism’. The general focus of the seminar was values, how they are used and what meaning they have to different people from different places. This discussion was encapsulated in the larger idea of the role of anthropology in communications and understandings of sameness and differences between places.

Joel explained these ideas with an ethnographic example of the Urapmin, a remote group in Papua New Guinea. The Urapmin were living on land which had the potential to become a mine due to the amount of copper and gold underneath it. In order to renew the license to keep looking for this copper and gold there was to be a meeting. In preparation for the meeting, the group prepared a performance with the central message of it being that they were simple bush people who needed developing.

Although the group could have been seen to be portraying themselves as backward and in need of help, what they were actually doing was attempting to form a relationship with the town and government. This is because in the Urapmin mind-set building and maintaining relationships is highly important. Their way of asking for something was in this way framed through ‘sorry talk’ and ‘hard talk’, both of which emphasised the value of gift giving and reciprocation in these relationships. Although the group did not get to perform they had built relationships and continued their reciprocation with the government.

With this example, Joel was conveying the following things. Perhaps most evident was the Urapmin’s focus on the value of relationships. Through a focus on this value it displays the differences in how business ventures are shaped in Europe and the Pacific and what is viewed as more or less valuable in each culture. The fact that the government and board did not stay to watch the performance displays their lesser attribution of value to the relationship between them and the Urapmin in contrast to their high level of effort. As formerly noted, what Joel was trying to show overall was the emphasis anthropology should be putting on values as a way of understanding difference and sameness between societies.

It was argued that the now somewhat unappealing notion of cultural relativism should be replaced with ‘value pluralism’. This is due to the fact that cultural relativism is something that has been ‘ill-defined’ and thus is something that anthropologists have never been able to make real sense out of. However, as a result of the abandonment of it anthropology has lost its critical lens. With values, it may be easier to understand as there is a mainly consensual idea of what they can mean and what they are. They therefore make societies easier to understand themselves and thus compare and critique to one another.

My own personal opinion of the seminar was that it brought forward many interesting and intriguing ideas. I believe that values do have more of an impact in understanding commonalities and differences among places than they are perhaps given and maybe there should be a shift in the way we think about these things. Some of the questions asked at the end are quite pertinent and are where I will leave this overview. I think that leading on from this discussion we need to ask if anthropology will be able to accommodate such a large shift and how the values of the anthropologist themselves factor in. I would also ask, as a student who has now spent the last four years of learning with cultural relativism being at the forefront of many of this, whether the ‘sun has (truly) set’ for good on the concept.

Laura Bennett is an MA student in Human Rights at Sussex, where she also completed her BA in Anthropology . She has a special interest in minority groups and how their inequality can be analysed from both a societal level and a personal one.

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Posted in Ethnography, Rights