By ELIZABETH VUVU
EAST New Britain council of women president, Ruby Matane, said there is widespread abuse and discrimination against young schoolgirls in the province.
“There is a need for education divisions and schools to protect and promote safe learning environments for the girls,” she said.
Mrs Matane, who is also the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee chairperson, said proper procedures had not been followed resulting in many unnecessary terminations and expulsions of girls.
“They have been sent home without thorough investigation of cases. There were lack of information on procedures, no involvement of counsellors or law enforcing agencies into criminal matters and these cannot go unchallenged,” she said.
Mrs Matane said today, many girls go to school fearing for their safety, dreading humiliation and violent treatment and simply hoping to just get through the day.
“The same forms of violence which women suffer throughout their lives, physically, spiritually and sexually, are present in their lives as they are in school and the result is that countless girls are kept out of school, drop out of school or do not fully participate in school,” she said.
Mrs Matane said teasing, wolf whistling, bullying or being touched in inappropriate places were common in schools and girls who were smaller in size or from a different ethnic group or class became the target.
“It is intimidating, degrading and must be stopped and alternatives must be taught in school to prevent the next generation from believing that these are acceptable behaviours in school,” she said.
Mrs Matane called on the Education Department, schools and student counsellors to be equipped with early intervention strategies to address harassment, fully implement the code of conduct that explicitly prohibits sexual violence and ensure that proper procedures must be followed in regards to addressing boy/girl relationship as this has resulted in a lot of unnecessary expulsions of students in which girls became victims.