Incorporating gender equality and violence prevention in the education curriculum
Incorporating gender equality and violence prevention in the education curriculum to help eliminate violence against women and girls
As part of the Spotlight Initiative, UNICEF is supporting the government to transform students’ learning and, in turn, their attitudes towards social norms and harmful behaviors
At a school in Liquica Municipality, about a 40-miunute drive from the capital Dili, 29 teachers gathered recently to discuss the Basic Education National Curriculum for Cycle 3 classes (Grades 7-9).
The teachers have been brought together to share their insights on revising the curriculum, based on their firsthand experience with adolescents in schools, to ensure students are equipped with both the knowledge and abilities to promote gender equality and respectful relationships.
Consultations such as the one in Liquica have taken place at both the national level and in eight of Timor-Leste’s 13 municipalities.
UNICEF’s support to the government’s development of the new curriculum is part of the joint European Union-United Nations (EU-UN) Spotlight Initiative, which aims to support transformative change on the ground to end violence against women and girls.
A 2013 baseline study on masculinities in Timor-Leste found that “in general, the acceptance of or tolerance for gender-based violence increases with age”.
This highlights the critical need to initiate prevention efforts when children are still forming their perceptions about gender norms.
Learning about healthy, respectful relationships through schools and communities gives people alternatives to following socially and culturally accepted norms, which can also promote equality in decision-making at all levels within the community.
While the current national curriculum contains general information around human rights, Marta Soares de Jesus, a civic education teacher at EBC Central Casait school in Liquica Municipality, feels it should be more specific regarding gender equality and nondiscrimination.
“Especially in rural areas, in meetings, men will often voice their opinions instead of women. Women are often afraid that their ideas might be wrong,” she said. “In school, some female students will only approach me after class with questions, rather than speaking up. So, we must make sure girls in school are supported, as they will become women who are confident in using their voices.”
In 2016, UNICEF conducted the “Study on Violence against Children in and around educational settings in Timor-Leste”, which found that 69 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls reported experiences of bullying by other children at school. These instances of bullying included being emotionally or physically hurt or being a victim of gang violence.
“We had a female student at school who was bullied and even beaten up by her friends because she was poor. Sometimes she didn’t wear shoes because her family could not afford to buy them,” said Maria Felicidade Correia, a high school teacher. “Unfortunately, she didn’t go on to study at university because she got married. I would say three or four students every year do not finish senior high school due to early marriage or early pregnancy.”
Once the revised curriculum is approved by the Council of Ministers, UNICEF will continue to provide support in developing manuals for students and teachers, as well as learning materials for schools.
The Spotlight Initiative is a multiyear partnership between the United Nations and the European Union, aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. The overall vision of the initiative in Timor-Leste is that women and girls enjoy their right to a life free of violence, within an inclusive and gender equitable society.
The Spotlight Initiative in Timor-Leste is implemented through five UN agencies (UN Women, UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF, and ILO) with a focus on addressing intimate partner violence and domestic violence. In addition to the five agencies, the programme involves collaboration with the International Organization for Migration, the Human Rights Advisor’s Unit, and the World Health Organization.