Gender Dynamics

Girls' Unique Risks

Researchers have not paid particular attention to girls' experiences of sexual violence in crisis situations. It is often assumed that girls have the same experiences as older women. However, being a girl may create unique risks and/or provide unique protections. Being a student is one of the risks/protections. Let's first discuss the school-related risks for girls.

Almost exclusively, men teach girls, especially at upper primary and secondary school levels, and in vocational centers. Girls' academic success often rests in the hands of powerful male teachers who teach the lessons, set and grade the exams, and then enter the grades into formal school records. Education is so important to girls, and such a critical means to improve their situation, that they are desperate to succeed. Their desire for education makes girls especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

The extent of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers and humanitarian workers of refugee girls in West Africa was highlighted in a UNHCR/Save the Children UK Report (2002). This report raised international awareness of the fact that some teachers were also perpetrators. Some teachers were used to pressuring girls into exchanging sex for good grades and exam scores.