Girl and Boy Students Commit to Stand Up Against Sexual Harassment at School

“Before we used to think that sexual harassment only involved touching someone’s body or serious sexual abuse. We have heard people telling sexual jokes and we just thought this was normal.”

Sexual harassment is a problem that occurs in schools throughout the nation ­ it can be in urban, rural areas, public or private institutions. Oftentimes, sexual harassment creates an unsafe and unwelcoming learning environment at school, therefore, interfere with a student’s health and well-being.

To address this phenomenon, CARE Cambodia has previously developed training materials for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) in Cambodia to integrate the sexual harassment and prevention course into state schools. The course has been approved as part of the official school syllabus and is being taught in Grade 7 since 2018.


In early 2022, with support from Lyreco, the Gender-Based Violence and Prevention from Sexual Harassment, Exploitation and Abuse (PSHEA) training was delivered to 23 focal teachers and house parent-teachers in 12 Lower Secondary Schools in Ratanak Kiri province. Furthermore, the project also helped the schools to organize the 16 days ending violence campaign and the International Women's Day celebration with the aim to promote child protection and protection from sexual harassment.


In June 2022, the project team conducted field monitoring and coaching to focal teachers. The focal teachers reported that currently about 5,281 (2,636 girls) students of whom 3,703 (1,857girls) are ethnic minority students at 12 Lower Secondary schools in Ratanak Kiri province are participating in this awareness training.


At this field visit, the project team hosted a meeting with boy students to learn more about the impact of the training. A group representative of the boy students said:

“Before we used to think that sexual harassment only involved touching someone’s body or serious sexual abuses. We have seen people telling sexual jokes and we just thought this was normal. We would think it was funny. The girls we saw never reacted at all, maybe didn’t like it, and they just walked away quietly. We were not aware that it was a violation of their rights or it might affect their lives in other ways. This lesson gives us a better understanding of negative impacts of sexual harassment. We can now clearly see that it is easy for boys like us to prevent sexual harassment by setting an example to be friendly and respectful rather than being threatening or derogatory.’’


The general school students and boarding house students say they have a better understanding of the definition of sexual harassment and they are aware of sexual harassment related behaviours and actions. The students also understand that they can take part in preventing and stopping sexual harassment at school after they received the training.


When students experience sexual harassment at school, it can undermine their sense of personal dignity and safety, disrupt their education, and interfere with their ability to reach their full potential in life. With that in mind, the training was intended to emphasize the importance of students being aware of the effects of sexual harassment and have knowledge and accessibility to tools and methods so that they can stand up for themselves and their peers.

“If we see any boy or man committing acts involving sexual harassment, we will speak up and if they don’t stop we will report it to our Elders and the teachers or anyone they trust; they will act as a good role model and will encourage witnesses to report sexual harassment,” said Ms Sol Smen, a Jarai student in grade 9 at O'Yadav.

 

This project is part of CARE’s Ethnic Minority Women (EMW) program in Cambodia funded by Lyreco for Education.