The year 2015 marks the 24th year of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, initiated in 1991 and coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Participation in the Campaign has seen over 5,478 organizations, policymakers, governments, UN agencies and countless individuals from over 180 countries worldwide. Together we have brought attention to issues of racism, sexism, cultures of violence, homophobia and called for the implementation of human rights obligations, including the right to health and reproductive rights, and end to militarism and gender-based violence, among others. The strength and longevity of the Campaign is due to these thousands of participants like you.
This year, the 16 Days Campaign will focus specifically on the relationship between militarism and the right to education in situations of violent conflict, in relative peace, and variety of education settings, while continuing to make the links with militarism, as an encompassing patriarchal system of discrimination and inequality based on our relationships to power.
Education is a public good and fundamental human right recognized in Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and upheld in various international and regional human rights conventions and treaties. Nonetheless, the right to education is subject to political, economic, and social shifts and upheavals, leaving certain groups (especially women, girls, people with disabilities, LGBTQI people, migrants, and indigenous people) particularly vulnerable and liable to being denied this crucial right. Recent data shows that approximately 38 million people are internally displaced worldwide, while 16.7 million are refugees. Girls and young women in particular are most adversely impacted by insecurity and crisis, with the most recent estimates showing that 31 million girls at primary level and 34 million at lower secondary level are not enrolled in school , and 15 million girls and 10 million boys will never see the inside of a classroom. As many as 58 million children of primary school age do not have access to education, with approximately half of these (28.5 million) living in conflict affected areas.
The protection of the right to education in conflict affected settings relies on national governments, and the international community’s response and commitment, which are often difficult to obtain. The right to education is too often affected by weak infrastructure, including: unsafe and unsanitary educational environments, inadequate curricula that are not gender-sensitive and continue to be framed within stereotypical patriarchal notions of gender; limited resource provision for the delivery of, or access to education. In 2014, global military spending stood at $1.8 trillion , while experts cite a $26 billion financing gap to achieve basic education for all by end of 2015. Children and young people of all genders can face further disadvantage due to disability, race or ethnic origin, economic difficulties and obligations thrust upon them by families and by the situation many find themselves in, whether in times of violent conflict, after an environmental disaster, or during relative peacetime. The disadvantages experienced by girls are particularly acute: girls and young women face the specter of early marriage or forced marriage that can cut short their education; the threat of different forms of school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV), including sexual violence and abuse on the way or within education settings; and discrimination in the availability of essential infrastructure such as adequate and safely accessible sanitary facilities. Consequently, many families choose to keep girls and young women from school and actively prevent them from continuing their education.
Given such insecurity and lack of safety in relation to education, and informed by the results of a global survey conducted earlier this year, the global theme of the 16 Days Campaign will be “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All”. This theme recognizes the dire situation for millions of girls and boys, and young women and men, whose universal human right to education is daily impacted or cut short due to violence, lack of resources, and discrimination. It is our obligation to focus on the precarious situation of education for girls and boys, young women and men this year through the 16 Days Campaign.
Under this global theme, the 16 Days Campaign is asking you to join in advancing the right to education and challenging violence, discrimination, and inequity in education at the intersection of gender, race or ethnicity, religion, real or perceived sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and other social identifiers. You can start thinking about what spaces and access to education look like in your community, country, or region. In planning your participation, consider the ways in which militarism affects education, whether in peacetime, during conflict, in refugee and IDP camps, in indigenous territories, in schools and other education settings, or even on the streets. Consider how violence and increased militarism has affected the education of young people in countries that have recently experienced different types of armed conflict; how extremism through State and non-State policies and practices have affected the right to education, especially for girls; and how government expenditures on arms and other priorities of militarization set the tone in funding for safe and accessible education for all.