Schools do not exist in social isolation from their communities. Gender inequalities, violence in the home, and social norms are often reflected in gender-based, violence-related incidents at school. The Zero Tolerance initiative intends to counter harmful social norms and practices, and promote non-violent behaviors in schools. According to a survey conducted by UNICEF in 2014, 66% of school-going children in Nepal have experienced physical violence in any form, while 22% have experienced psychological violence by teachers. Similarly, the percentage of children experiencing physical and psychological violence by peers at school is 28% and 15%, respectively. The same survey also found that 12% of children have been victims of sexual violence at school. Education has the potential to transform and empower young people, particularly girls. In 2015, the Government of Nepal launched the academic year with the slogan “End Gender-Based Violence at School,” and has been raising awareness and taking active steps to address this issue. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Education, USAID and UNICEF are partnering to support the government in these efforts over a three-year period.
The Zero Tolerance project is a three-year, over $5 million collaborative effort between USAID and UNICEF aimed at reducing the prevalence of school-related gender-based violence and establishing child- and adolescent-friendly procedures to respond to incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) when they occur. The project leverages UNICEF’s ongoing work by establishing or strengthening connections between education and child protection actors. Through training, mapping of services for GBV victims, advocacy and awareness raising activities, school actors will gain knowledge of child rights as well as understand the impact of GBV – including segregation during menstruation (or chhaupadi) and child marriage – and their legal and social consequences. Girls who are married early face dismal socio-economic and physical consequences, such as loss of schooling, psychological trauma, poverty, and lower reproductive health outcomes. To complement preventive activities, the project will also develop a systematic reporting and referral mechanism to monitor and respond to incidents of school-related GBV. Such activities will ensure that school students who are victims or at risk of violence are appropriately supported and have access to child- and adolescent-friendly services. The project seeks to create learning environments that are GBV-free, where girls and boys are empowered to protect themselves and counter harmful social norms and practices in their communities.