Global poll reveals young people believe sexual harassment in schools is a major issue for girls

by World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts | World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts
Friday, 25 November 2016 09:10 GMT

Girl Guides in Barbados are putting a stop to violence in their country. Photo credit; WAGGGS

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(LONDON, UK) - OVER two thirds of young people surveyed in a global poll believe the threat of sexual harassment in schools is an overwhelming problem for girls and young women, with more than half saying that it stops them from studying and taking part in hobbies, according to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

To kick off 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, over 2,000 people from over 60 countries worldwide, many as young as 14, were asked for their thoughts on sexual harassment in local schools, colleges and universities, through U-Report.

The poll exposes the scale of the problem of sexual harassment in schools across many parts of the world, revealing girls face double discrimination due to their gender and fear of violence and is an issue that crosses cultural divides.

Violence and harassment was also revealed to have a major impact on a girl’s ability to pursue her hobbies, with one in two girls reporting that the threat of sexual harassment distracts them from studying or taking part in educational activities. Over 45 per cent revealed the main perpetrators of violence are other students, while over a quarter of young people believe teachers are responsible for sexual harassment in schools.

A number of the young people who spoke out as U-Reporters were Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from across the globe, many of whom are committed to putting a stop to violence in their community. Boys and men were also vocal in their responses, adding further weight to the poll, while over 1,400 messages were received, sharing actions that are being taken to challenge sexual harassment

“My friends used to joke that I had a stalker as he used to follow me everywhere. He’d make humping gestures at me from across the classroom and used to tell me he wanted to have sex with me. I asked him to stop loads of times but he didn’t and other people just laughed it off as him ‘just fancying me’. Teachers turned a blind eye too - ‘he just likes you, you should be flattered’. It went on for months and I just thought it was something I had to accept, I started to think it must be me - that I was being oversensitive and should just shut up and put up,” reveals a UK-based Girl Guide member.


“One girl was encouraged to take a naked photo of herself and share it with a boy in the class,” she continued. “He sent it round everyone and she was called a ‘slut’. The most worrying thing is that I know nothing’s changed – my 13 year old sister told me recently about a really similar story in her own class.”


According to another Girl Guide, 21, who is a UK-based U-Reporter:

“Girls often feel like they can't study maths or science, because they are seen as subjects for boys. We live in fear of sexual assault happening, even while we’re in school.”

Through a combination of anti-violence clubs, educational sessions, engaging boys and men as well as working with local governments, WAGGGS is working hard to ensure girls are able to speak out in the face of violence to ensure they can live a life free from harassment as part of its global Stop the Violence campaign: Speak out for Girls’ Rights

Nicola Grinstead, Chair of World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ World Board, says:

“Girls and young women across the world are telling us that they face violence and harassment on a daily basis in schools, colleges and at university. The severity of the issue is significant. When girls are able to go to school, the fear of violence will stop many of them from reaching their full potential.”

Anita Tiessen, CEO of World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, says:

“It is a major cause for concern when girls and young women feel unsafe in a school environment, which is traditionally thought to be a safe space. WAGGGS is working in countries across the world to tackle violence and to encourage girls and women to speak out about it. U-Report is just one way in which they can do this.”

In Rwanda, girls and boys have formed anti-violence clubs in school.  The young people discuss ways that they can make a change in their community, such as raising the issue with their fathers and brothers, educating them about why violence is not right.

In Italy, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are involving boys in educational sessions, explaining what violence is and how they can tackle it.

In Sri Lanka, Girl Guides are building coalitions by working with a range of partner organisations, including local government, to amplify their voice and ensure people across the country understand why violence against girls and women must be stopped.

To view the full set of results, visit: To find out more about WAGGGS’ Stop the Violence campaign or to join the movement, please visit


From 25 November – 16 December, WAGGGS will be sharing #16 ways in #16 Days in which young people can tackle gender-based violence around the world, to tie in with 16 Days of Activism. For case studies, photographs or interviews, please contact:

Angela Singh, Communications Manager, MediaWorld Association of Girl Guides and Girl ScoutsPhone: +44 (0)20 7433 6460Email:



About World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS)

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts is the world’s only movement for every girl and any girl because it believes that each girl deserves to be the best she can be. Free to make what they want from the Movement, girls learn by doing, make friends and have fun. In safe, local spaces, girls develop the skills and attitude to change themselves, their communities and our world. WAGGGS keeps the global Movement thriving, united and growing.

For more information, please visit

About U-Report

U-Report is a ground-breaking, social messaging tool designed to amplify the voices of young people so they can achieve positive change for their communities. Run by coalitions of non-governmental and faith-based organisations, U-Report allows young people to speak out through SMS, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and other web-based channels on what is happening in their communities. It also provides a forum to amplify young people’s voices through local, national and international media, and feeds back useful information to the U-Reporters, so they are empowered to work for change and improvements in their communities.

While U-Report can be used to address any issue that affects children and young people, it serves to raise awareness, share information with and among young people, and collect quantifiable data on specific questions on a variety of issues that impact the most vulnerable, including child protection, health, education and emergency response. Responses received are analysed in real time and data are mapped at the local level and compiled nationally. With over 2.7 million young people involved, U-Report community data are filling an information vacuum across 29 countries, enabling decision makers to react quickly to meet young people’s needs, connecting marginalised communities to crucial services, creating early-warning systems to address needs more quickly, and speeding up surveys to improve accountability around project implementation.

For more information about U-Report, please visit


ABOUT 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and culminates on 10 December, Human Rights Day.


16 Days of Activism is used as a point in the year for individuals and organizations around the world to call for action to end violence against women and girls and for the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls.


The campaign is supported by the UN Secretary General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women. This has resulted in huge international engagement during 16 Days of Activism from organizations and individuals.


To coincide with 16 Days of Activism 2016, WAGGGS has launched its #16Ways in #16Days campaign. The key message for the #16Ways in #16Days campaign is: Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. Everyone can take action to end it. The campaign will showcase 16 actions to show that individual action can go from small personal steps to action at the national level.