Gender-based violence in the age of AIDS : senior secondary school learners' envisaged solutions in two rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal.
Patriarchal male power is a fundamental issue that explains the reason for gender-based violence (GBV) as well as societies acceptance of it. Social and cultural forces shape behaviour in society. A patriarchal mindset and power relations influence behaviour towards GBV as a means of controlling women in society. These societal norms are reflected in schools, which are supposed to be havens of safety but seem to allow for and perpetuate societal GBV, increasing girls’ risk of being sexually abused at school and making school unsafe sites. Even though extensive intervention and prevention strategies have been legislated and implemented, statistics indicate that the prevalence of GBV and HIV/AIDS have not decreased in adolescents. Policies and strategies are currently still failing to help youth be less vulnerable to GBV. This study worked with adolescents, aiming to place them at the centre of the problem and of the solution, by conducting research in two rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal. The participants were grade 9 learners (adolescents) attending these schools, who were given the opportunity to explore problems regarding GBV experienced in their schools and to find possible solutions that they can implement themselves in order to curb or address GBV in their schools. A qualitative approach was used, working in a critical paradigm, allowing the participants to be a voice of change in a socially destructive situation. A purposive sample of 30 learners (boys and girls) provided information-rich data. The methodology used was participatory video, and learners simulated examples of GBV at school as well as solutions to them. The research process of producing the participatory videos was an intervention in itself. Three themes emerged from the findings, indicating that: girls’ bodies are sites for GBV in unsafe schools; men who are stereotypically seen as the protectors of society are in fact the perpetrators of GBV through low-level sexual harassment, intimate partner violence and educator sexual misconduct; and learners have a sound understanding of how to address GBV in school and show agency by clearly indicating their disapproval, reporting misconduct, speaking out about the problem in assembly and forming support groups to provide invaluable assistance to each other. This has implications for dealing with learners’ safety at school, and recommendations are made regarding learners’ safety. These include involving the whole community, and endorsing a “safe school” plan with effective school policies and adequate safety and security measures to protect learners (and, more specifically, girls). In order to address patriarchy, recommendations include supportive educator involvement, guidelines for educator misconduct, school counsellor involvement, appropriate sex education and workshops on appropriate male behaviour. Although learners had a sound understanding of what can be done to address GBV in school, it is also recommended that parents, police and health care providers become more involved and that educational programmes, such as peer education, are incorporated.
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