One: Preventing violence against women and girls through education: dilemmas and challenges

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The prevention of VAWG through education brings with it the imperative to consider its theoretical foundations since it is suggested that effective programmes make explicit two types of theories: one related to the cause of VAWG and a second addressing the means by which change might be brought about, a theory of change (De Grace and Clarke, 2012). Evidence from research in the UK (Ellis, 2004a) and elsewhere (Mulroney, 2003) shows that many programmes lack theoretical clarity in both respects. While this poses difficulties in the design, delivery and evaluation of initiatives, there is also often little consideration of prevention itself; equally problematic, however, is a lack of critical theorising about children1 and childhood. This chapter considers contemporary ideas of prevention and the implications this has for feminist challenges to VAWG through work with children and young people, principally in schools. Offering prevention as a solution is significant for children, in how VAWG is understood and how efforts to end VAWG are mediated in educational discourse2. Beginning with a discussion of prevention and its use in contemporary policy, with a brief outline of the two dominant conceptual models, public health and prevention science, consideration is then given to some of the dilemmas and challenges these present. The chapter concludes with some thoughts on reframing the prevention of VAWG through education within a framework of children’s rights and feminist poststructuralism. In engaging in a critique of prevention, it is not my intention to undermine the project of attempting to end VAWG but more to illuminate the context in which it has developed in order to inform reflective and reflexive policy and practice so that adults might better engage with children in this endeavour.

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Preventing Violence against Women and Girls
Educational work with children and young people
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