World Education Inc. highlights STAGE approach to address sexual exploitation in schools

Accra World Education Inc. (WEI) has highlighted approaches to address Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment (SEAH) of adolescent girls at community and school levels as the world marks the International Day of the Girl on October 11, 2019.

WEI, in a statement, said the issues of exploitation and abuse are widespread at the family, community, areas of socialization, workplace and school levels.

There is the need to establish a comprehensive safeguarding approach that will prevent adolescent children from being exploited and abused, it said.

The day is being marked on the theme: Girl Force: unscripted and unstoppable.

The statement said girls are vulnerable because of poverty, neglect by family, early marriage, teenage pregnancies, disability, exploitation leading to child labour, prostitution etc.

They also experience violence, abuse or discrimination because of power dynamics and social norms in their communities which intersect with gender.

Girls also face issues in accessing education and other opportunities due to sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation. More often than not, their own families or community members condone with perpetrators because they are used to deep seated beliefs and negative social norms that aggravate the situation of the girls.

The statement connects to efforts being made by UK Department for International Development (DFID) in funding ‘Leave No Girl Behind’, a new initiative that commenced in July 2018.

Dubbed STAGE (Strategic Approaches to Girls’ Education) in Ghana, this initiative led by World Education Inc. and partners will support interventions providing literacy, numeracy and life skills to highly marginalized, adolescent girls who have never attended or have already dropped out of school.

World Education Inc. recognizes that the degree of vulnerability of the targeted girls calls for intensive safeguarding.

WEI is therefore committed to ensuring that all implementers of STAGE working at community and school levels in the seven regions where STAGE is being implemented, manage a wide range of risks such that children, especially girls are kept safe from harm and abuse.

Before any intervention and interaction with the girls, they are sensitized and trained by STAGE to empower themselves with knowledge and skills to prevent further vulnerabilities and to recognize and report vulnerabilities such as sexual abuse and exploitation.

A toll-free helpline 0800121212, which will be operational from November 2019, has been acquired for reporting suspected cases and perpetrators.

Through community animation sessions, families and communities are being sensitized frequently on the need to exhibit a more positive attitude towards girls in order to reduce the level of harm done to them and to get them to access education and other opportunities they are entitled to.

STAGE partners will collaborate with GES, Social Welfare and DOVVSU to increase awareness among teachers, administrators, parents and students on the need to prevent sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in schools at the district level. STAGE partners will make available safeguarding tools which schools can use to create safer environments.

In order for the girls to feel protected to participate in the project interventions, STAGE partners are modeling the Girls’ Education Challenge(GEC) approach to safeguarding to develop organizational policies and procedures that reflect a positive code of conduct for staff to adhere to, safe recruitment and vetting practices of any project staff and community volunteers, selection of organizational and community gatekeepers, training, whistleblowing, reporting through internal and external channels, managing investigations, monitoring and evaluation of safeguarding interventions.

World Education Inc. and her Downstream Partners are marking the day with community engagement activities at the district/community levels, emphasizing the need to use the proposed safeguarding approaches to support marginalized girls to have a second chance to acquire some education and life changing opportunities.

Source: Ghana News Agency