Hope for Community and Children Initiative fumes over negative social norms
By: Femi Mustapha
The Hope for Community and Children Initiative (H4CC) has expressed deep concern regarding the prevalence of negative social norms that contribute to sexual harassment and corporal punishment in both public and private schools in Kaduna State.
During a one-day validation exercise of research findings on the effects of social norms on sexual harassment and corporal punishment in schools, held in Kaduna on May 24, 2023, Hadiza Umar, the Executive Director of H4CC, made a strong statement on the matter.
She highlighted various negative social norms that perpetuate these harmful practices, such as the belief that teachers and parents must physically discipline children as a sign of authority, regardless of the child’s behavior. Additionally, the culture of viewing rape cases as shameful to the victim’s family leads to the suppression of such incidents. Moreover, blaming the girl-child for gender-based violence and scrutinizing her attire when she becomes a victim further compounds the issue.
Hadiza described social norms as unwritten rules that shape acceptable and appropriate actions within a particular group or community, guiding human behavior. She emphasized that these norms increase the risk of sexual violence, shaping beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and influencing the perception of acceptability within the larger society.
Recognizing the significance of norms in shaping the likelihood of sexual violence and harassment, Hadiza stressed the need for change and effective strategies to address this grave issue.
H4CC initiated the research in 2021 in response to the alarming rate of sexual harassment in society. The research focused on five selected local government areas: Makarfi, Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Kajuru, and Kauru.
Mallam Isa Suleiman, an activist, spoke about the objectives of the study, which aimed to examine the nature and magnitude of the impact of social norms on sexual harassment and corporal punishment in selected schools in the state. The study provides valuable evidence on the effect of social norms on School Related Gender-Based Violence (SRGBV), seeking to understand the underlying norms that contribute to the high prevalence of such cases in schools, communities, and homes, and their detrimental effects on education outcomes.
Jeremiah Tera, a participant, highlighted that social norms encompass what individuals do, what they believe others do, and what they believe others approve of and expect them to do. He emphasized that social norms are shaped by the interplay between behavior, beliefs, and expectations.
Siddqat Shittu, another participant, added that social norms are learned and accepted from an early age, often during infancy, and are reinforced through social punishments for deviating from the norm, as well as social benefits for adherence.
It was observed that sexual harassment and corporal punishment in Kaduna schools are influenced by the prevailing social norms within the society.
Commending H4CC for its commendable work, Siddqat Shittu called on stakeholders to utilize the research findings to combat School Related Gender-Based Violence (SRGBV) effectively.