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#PreventGBV: More Than Lottery

by Camelia Proca


The European Commission has recently initiated the #PreventGBV network for the exchange of best practices in the prevention of gender-based violence, which includes representatives of the Member States, but also experienced NGOs. I had the opportunity to participate as a representative of WAVE – Women Against Violence Europe (which includes over 100 NGOs specialized in victim assistance, advocacy and prevention), of which A.L.E.G. has been part of for over 12 years.

#PreventGBV meets regularly and the theme this time was prevention education, formal and informal. The discussions started with the question ‘Is enough being done in your country for education to prevent gender-based violence?’ Slido quickly gave us a statistic: 92% of the participants answered NO. So governments are aware that they are not doing enough on this subject.

Annis Stenson, a researcher at Newcastle University, checked 28 prevention programs in the EU and analyzed country reports on the topic. Her conclusion is that a solid program should meet six criteria:

  • to pursue changes in attitudes towards violence, anchored in a sound theory of change
  • to address harmful gender stereotypes
  • to recognize existing intersectional inequalities (gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ability, etc.)
  • engage boys and men as allies in violence prevention
  • to integrate interventions at different levels – civic, institutional, community, family
  • to be based on local and regional data

Annis and many other researchers say that you need to start early, with age-appropriate programs, because by 5-6 years old, the idea that boys are in charge already appears.

After the exchange of information about the problems encountered but also the good practices that exist, the opinions of the participants regarding the priorities for solutions looked something like this:
42% of us were of the opinion that more training is needed for teaching staff
28% of us would put more pressure on politicians
16% of us would invest in better systems for monitoring and evaluating what is being done for prevention
11% of us would invest in teaching resources and materials

In many countries, those dealing with prevention are seeing a wave of increased opposition to the idea of education for prevention, which operates with the spread of false information by religious or nationalist groups (such as ‘gender education is a foreign import and makes your children gay’, ‘any discussion of sexuality is anti-Christian and spoils the purity of children’). It is also noticed the feeling of being overwhelmed by many teachers and parents, who feel uncomfortable with these topics themselves and don’t know how to help young people, so they avoid homework in this area.

The helplessness of adults leaves young people at the mercy of the internet and online platforms. Younger and younger minors end up on pornographic sites and take the practices they see there as reality. If they are lucky to have teachers and parents who are not afraid to approach sensitive topics, NGOs and European projects active where they learn, it happens that some European students receive guidance to recognize violence, learn about informed consent and ask for help at need.

But a lot depends on the school you go to, the parents you have. Few countries have a minimum set of competences for this topic in education, which is applied unitarily and is also evaluated as results (Finland has). Even in some countries, the Ministry of Education says that it is not even their job. Europe is still playing the lottery when it comes to preventing violence, afraid to face its own prejudices and shadows. Autonomy, we say: it is not up to the EU to tell us how to educate children to prevent violence. That is, a pretext to keep our roots well-entrenched in the patriarchy, to put the brakes on the future, each at our own popular pace. We have a new directive on gender-based violence that could not give a commonly accepted definition of rape, as if rape is some new thing that we still don’t understand. It has only been accepted that we should promote a culture of consent, but there are quite a few European states that are not prepared to sanction those who disregard consent. How does this double standard affect the effectiveness of prevention? Here is a topic to study.

But we don’t give up hope. We also presented some solutions from WAVE and A.L.E.G., which meet the above criteria:

  • StoP that brings prevention to the neighborhood level (makes violence a public issue of the community by better connecting neighbors, parents/children with the school, kindergarten or corner store for information and integrated solutions)
  • Gender Equality Awareness Raising against Intimate Partner Violence / Gear Against IPV (training program for high school teachers, with manuals and worksheets for interactive workshops with students)
  • The Benefits of Gender Equality in Early Childhood Education/Boosting Gender Equality in aeducation (guidelines for integrating gender equality in schools and kindergartens and in lesson plans from various existing subjects)
  • Gender Ed (training program for secondary schools on gender stereotypes in the choice of study profile)
  • Empowerment and feminist self-defense (practiced by Garance in Belgium and beyond)