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Free Content Intersections of ‘sanitation, sexual coercion and girls’ safety in schools’

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Summary Objective 

To explore safety for girls in schools, particularly how girls perceive and negotiate dangers and risks associated with the use of toilets. Methods 

Participatory action research over a period of 3 days at three schools in South Africa. Informants were 81 girls 16 years and older, teachers and other relevant school personnel. Data were collected through focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, participant observation, mapping and photography. Results 

Toilets had inadequate or no sanitation. Both their use and their avoidance were risky for female students and discouraged hygienic practices. Experience of sexual violence from male students and teachers was a major theme, but unrelated to school toilets. Male teachers used various strategies and opportunities to gain sexual access to the girls and previous experience of victimization prevented the girls from reporting them. Conclusion 

To ensure a healthy school environment that promotes gender equality, all threats to safety, including the physical and social environment, must be considered.

Keywords: education; girls; safety; sanitation; schools; sexual violence

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1:  Gender and Health Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Tygerberg, South Africa 2:  Crime Prevention Centre, Centre for Scientific and Innovative Research, Pretoria, South Africa

Publication date: 2006-05-01

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