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Help Girls Learn Without Fear

What do girls really learn at school?

Warning: This film contains content of a violent and sexual nature which some viewers may find distressing.

Over a fifth of British women aged 18 and over say they experienced unwanted sexual contact in or around school when they were girls. It’s a global issue: this school year, 246 million children worldwide will be affected by violence at school.

Reports of sexual offences in UK schools more than doubled in four years, figures obtained by Plan International UK revealed. Alleged cases increased from 719 in 2011-12 to 1,955 in 2014-15. That's an average of ten sexual offences each school day. More than one in four (29 per cent) of the alleged sexual offences are thought to be committed pupils, with some suspected offenders being as young as primary school age.

Children are unaware of the ramifications of sexting, so much so that we’ve discovered the nearly 8 out of 10 British adults agree that young people should be taught about sexting through compulsory sex and relationships education.

Our Because I am a Girl campaign aims to end violence and harassment of girls in school both globally and in the UK. Plan International UK is calling for compulsory sex education to include information on sexting, consent and healthy relationships.

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Girls are especially vulnerable to violence at school. It can be physical or sexual, verbal or psychological. It means they’re scared they’ll be sexually abused or bullied, they’re afraid of going to the toilet and they’re at risk when they’re on their way to and from school.

Find out more about:
What’s happening in the UK
What’s happening around the world
The impact of violence in schools
What we’re doing about it
Real stories

What’s happening in the UK

In our specially commissioned *survey by ICM Unlimited, 1 in 5 (22%) women in the UK reported some experience of sexual touching, groping, flashing, sexual assault or rape whilst they were in or around school. Almost half that number (10%) said the abuse occurred ‘sometimes’ or ‘frequently’. But 3 in 5 (61%) of those who had experienced abuse said they never reported it to a teacher or anyone else in authority.

Other recent reports found:

We’re calling for:

  • High quality, statutory sex and relationships education to help young people understand about healthy relationships and consent. This should include work with boys as well as girls.
  • Support for schools so they can effectively address gender equality, tackle stereotypes and end unwanted sexual contact
  • A commitment to preventing violence against girls at all levels by making sure bullying policies address gender and violence against girls.
  • Support for teachers to prevent and manage incidences of unwanted sexual contact in schools.
  • Ensure provisions are in place so that schools are a safe place where children can report their concerns.

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What’s happening around the world

It’s a global issue. Millions of girls across the world are being denied their rights to a good education and lives free from violence.

Sexual violence
Worldwide, an estimated 150 million girl have experienced sexual violence. A lot of it happens in schools.

Using school facilities
Our research found that 50 per cent of girls said they don’t feel safe using toilets or latrines in school (Plan International, 2015).

The journey to and from school
We found that 47 per cent of girls said they do not feel safe on their way to school  because of the threat or fear of physical, verbal or sexual abuse on the journey (Plan International, 2015). 

Physical violence and punishment 
Across nine countries, two-thirds of students reported witnessing severe physical abuse by teachers or other students (Plan International, 2015).

Bullying
Over 7 in 10 children surveyed in nine countries where we work report witnessing verbal abuse. 

Attacks on schools
There have been almost 10,000 attacks on places of learning since 2009, with hotspots including Pakistan, Nigeria, Colombia and Syria.

This infographic shows just how big the problem of violence at school is.

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The impact of violence in schools

Worldwide, 62 million girls don’t go to school – violence is one of the reasons why. Education is invaluable to a girl’s life. It can help build self-esteem, allow girls to become economically productive and independent, and to take control of their lives. To break the cycle of poverty and inequality in the world, we need to make sure every girl can learn without fear.

Violence at school affects boys too. But the types of violence suffered by girls – especially sexual violence – along with gender stereotyping, mean their opportunities are more likely to diminish as a result.

Girls might:

  • Be afraid to go to school or drop out altogether
  • Struggle to concentrate in class, preventing progress
  • Get lower grades, or miss exams or other ways of getting qualifications
  • Suffer physical pain and short- or long-term chronic psychological problems
  • Get pregnant through sexual violence
  • Be ostracised by peers and lack the confidence to speak up.

This infographic explains six of the biggest barriers to a girls’ education.

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What we’re doing about it

Our Because I am a Girl campaign works with girls, their communities and governments, to run programmes across the world that help make sure girls can get a good quality, safe education.

We’re tackling the root causes of violence 
In Kenya and Zimbabwe, for example, we’ve set up child protection committees in schools to make sure everyone knows how to keep children safe at school, and can report concerns.

We’re making sure girls can have their say
In Kenya we’re helping young people develop national guidelines on the reporting of child sexual abuse cases. And in Uganda, for example, we’ve helped girls give politicians their views on stopping violence and discrimination.

We’re campaigning with young people
In the UK we held a Youth Action Festival that brought together young men and women from across the UK to learn about the issue of violence against girls in school and design campaigns for change. From local school clubs to T shirt making, singing and theatre, young people used their creativity to form the policy solutions for our campaign. Watch what happened.

We’re working with teachers and social workers
For example, in Egypt, we’re training teachers and social workers on girls’ rights and child protection to make sure they promote gender equality and know how to respond when a child’s at risk.

We’re working with boys too
For example, in Colombia, Nicaragua and Bolivia, we’re running workshops for boys and young men to teach them about the importance of treating girls with respect. That means they can help bring about change.

Donate now to help us carry on developing programmes and working with governments so girls can go to school safely and thrive.

Donate to our Girls projects

Real stories


Six Girls Speak Out: Violence at School
VIDEO: Six girls from six countries speak out about their experiences of sexual violence in school. 

Raped at 13
Lillian was attacked on her way home from school but after counselling still has hope for the future.

Getting away with abuse
Mahiri was harassed by a teacher but couldn't do anything about it. We're helping schools set up systems to help children report abuse.

Pregnant by my teacher
Sadiki tried to say no to her teacher.

Stoned by a bully 
Find out how we helped to reduce violence in schools in Sophin's community.

*This survey was conducted on the ICM Unlimited omnibus amongst a nationally representative sample of 3,710 adults (including  2,094 women) aged 18 years and over in Great Britain, carried out in November 2015 and analysed during the final quarter of 2015.   

  • WATCH Sadiki's story and find out what happened when she tried to say no to her teacher.
  • WATCH Lillian's story. She was attacked on her way home from school but after counselling still has hope for the future.
  • Mahiri is 16 and lives in Kenya. She was harassed by a teacher but couldn't do anything about it. We're helping schools set up systems to help children report abuse.

If you are a child affected by bullying or violence, please call ChildLine free on 0800 1111.
If you are concerned about a child’s safety, call the NSPCC’s helpline on 0808 800 5000.

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