Laura Bates in Kosovo
This week’s Global Summit in London sees the largest ever gathering of government representatives and organisations all focused on ending Sexual Violence in Conflict.
As part of the summit, Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates visited Kosovo with the charity CARE International, a country dealing with the aftermath of a war in which up to 20,000 women were raped. And CARE has now launched a petition calling for a focus on educating boys to change their attitudes towards women.
Laura says, “When I visited the capital city, Pristina, I was greeted by a large group of passionate, articulate teenage boys wearing t-shirts with slogans like “Be a man, break the mould!” and “Healthy relationships without violence”.
I watched them take part in a lively workshop as part of the Young Men Initiative (YMI), where insulting words and labels like “Dhip” (‘pussy’) were discussed and analysed. The boys’ conclusions were impressively mature: “If you use name calling, you lose authority and put yourself down”, said one.
The initiative has already yielded impressive results, with surveys suggesting striking changes in the participants’ attitudes towards violence, gender stereotypes and homophobia. In fact, it has been so successful that it has been accredited by the Kosovan government for all secondary schools.
Just as sexual violence and gender inequality are global problems, so CARE believes that the program could hold vital lessons for countries around the world.
Here in the UK, the government recently rejected an attempt to put compulsory sex and relationships education about issues such as consent on the curriculum. Yet just this week, I received an entry to the Everyday Sexism Project from a 14-year old girl who had been held down at school by eight of her male peers while they groped her body and breasts, leaving her covered in bruises. She was too afraid to tell anybody.
Meanwhile, a survey by YouGov for the End Violence Against Women Coalition suggests that this was far from an isolated incident – nearly one in three of the 16-18 year old girls polled reported unwanted sexual touching at school. Which is yet another reason to sign the petition calling for schools around the world to include teaching on gender equality and ending violence against women. Challenging and changing attitudes by engaging men and boys really works - and you can help to make it happen.”