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.
As this collection has demonstrated, prevention work with young people through education has gained increased interest and currency amongst those seeking to prevent VAWG in both the short and long term. Starting with calls to develop educational work in the 1980s, a recognition of the harm caused by domestic violence and child sexual abuse to children and young people, as well as violence in their own intimate relationships, has led to intensified demands for prevention work. There is no doubt that practice has preceded policy in this area and despite the ongoing absence of a clear policy mandate, certainly in England, practitioners continue to carve out spaces for prevention work with children and young people in school and non-school settings. The motivations for this work inevitably differ and clearly shape both the kind of programmes that are developed and the ways in which they are implemented. Despite this variation, some commonalities are evident, including: a commitment to fostering healthy relationships and behaviours among young people; challenging violence and the harm it causes to not only women but also to children; engendering in children and young people the skills to resolve conflict through non-violent means; and building their confidence to seek help by equipping them with knowledge and information. Since schools provide access to almost all children and young people, they have been considered an important site for prevention work on VAWG. However, as noted by Crooks et al (2008), ‘effective programs have achieved neither widespread nor sustained implementation’ in schools’ (p 111).
This collection, the first of its kind to bring together research and practice, addresses the fragmentary knowledge base on prevention work in schools on violence against women and girls (VAWG)1 at a time when it has received unprecedented attention. It arose out of conversations that took place between the editors about the absence of a wider critical conversation, and the lack of a discursive space, about school-based prevention work with children and young people and indeed about prevention itself – what it is, how and if it can be achieved, why is it desirable, what assumptions it makes about schools, and what view of children and young people it adopts and extends. The editors were very aware of the absence of a body of work that brought together knowledge about the disparate, and often exciting, school-based work taking place in many parts of the country. Such a body of work could also reflect on the many dilemmas and challenges faced by those at the cutting edge of developing this work and how these have been, if at all, addressed. Through drawing together researchers and practitioners in a conversation for the first time, this collection highlights the important work that has been developed thus far in this area and raises, and responds to, some of the questions that might be encountered by those seeking to take this work forward in the future. While the majority of contributors are drawn from the UK, we have included contributions from elsewhere on issues not yet written about in the UK to extend the critical conversation.
The need for children and young people to learn about violence against women and girls (VAWG) has been voiced since the late 1980s. This is the first ever book on educational work to prevent VAWG, providing the most comprehensive contribution to our knowledge and understanding in this area.
By bringing together international examples of research and practice, the book offers insight into the underpinning theoretical debates and key lessons for practice, addressing the complexities and challenges of developing, implementing and evaluating educational work to prevent VAWG.
This multidisciplinary book will be of interest to educationalists, VAWG and child welfare practitioners, policy makers, researchers and students.
22 Oct 2014
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