Why and How on Gender-Based Violence in High Schools

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A representative of the …IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA organization Ivana Zelić participated at the conference entitled Why and How on Gender-Based Violence in High Schools held in Belgrade on Saturday, 13 October. The Conference was the final event with the teachers within the framework of the Zero Tolerance Towards Gender-Based Violence Project of the Autonomous Women’s Center.

The Zero Tolerance Towards Gender-Based Violence Project is to be implemented by the end of 2018 with a long-term goal to raise the level of young women’s and girls’ personal perception of being safe from sexual and gender-based violence. The project activities are implemented in 15 Serbian towns and include 30 high schools and eight faculties of various universities. Its key fields of impact are working with teachers, increasing knowledge among the youth and doing public activities with them, as well as working with faculty staff and management concerning sexual harassment prevention and campaigning with them aimed at public awareness-raising. …IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA organization is one of the local partner organizations of the Autonomous Women’s Center in this project.

The aim of the Conference was to advance the knowledge of teachers and expert staff in high schools, as well as their experience- and ideas-sharing concerning possibilities of improving prevention and students’ protection from gender-based and domestic violence.

Ivana Zelić from …IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA talked about the significance of collaboration of schools and civil society organizations (CSOs) concerning gender-based violence. She pointed out a good practice example of cooperation with Novi Sad high schools, most particularly with the 7 April Medical High School and Jovan Jovanović Zmaj Comprehensive High School. A total of 43 students (36 girls and 7 boys) attended peer workshops in these two schools. The best indicator of their success was the workshops’ evaluation, their quality getting top marks from the attendees.

Prevention of any kind of violence against children must be the basic task of all educational institutions and the entire society. Above all, it implies teaching children and youth about violence throughout the education system, starting from the kindergarten all the way to universities. The Zero Tolerance Towards Gender-Based Violence Project, along with other CSO projects and activities, are significant because they raise the level of knowledge and awareness of youth concerning gender-based violence. They build capacities of teachers and other professionals in the education system for recognizing and reacting to gender-based violence. Finally, such projects raise the awareness of the public, media and decision-makers about these topics.

Ivana Zelić pointed out that CSOs are partners to schools in their efforts to combat gender-based violence. Besides prevention, the offer following activities as well: victim’s support and empowerment to leave from the situation of violence, threat level assessment and individual safety planning, cooperation with other services, free psychosocial support and legal aid, including official correspondence writing and court representation, mediation in placing victims in drop-in centers and shelters, information and referral to other relevant institutions, organization of educational and psychosocial programs for adults and children survivors of violence. These are all reasons why their cooperation is very important.

Other speakers at the Conference were Marina Ileš from the Autonomous Women’s Center, who presented key project results concerning cooperation with high schools, as well as Eleonora Vlahović from the Teaching and Education Advancement Institute on gender-based violence in the context new curricula and teaching programs in primary and high schools. Serbian language teachers Jelena Stefanović and Saša Glamočak spoke about the gender perspective in Serbian language and literature teaching, while Tanja Ignjatović from the Autonomous Women’s Center discussed the role of high schools in providing protection and support in cases of domestic gender-based violence.

After plenary presentations, the Conference participants continued working in small groups, discussing issues such as role of educational institutions in domestic and gender-based violence prevention, possibilities and challenges of integrating topics concerning gender-based and domestic violence in teaching and other high school activities, as well as creating a general zero tolerance climate concerning violence in schools.

Written by Ivana Zelić

Translated from Serbian by Ankica Dragin


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