The School’s Out Project
Young people in Southern Africa face formidable challenges in a world of rapid social changes, economic recession, religious fundamentalism and a widening gap between the wealthy and the poor. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and/or queer (LGBTIQ) youth experience discrimination in school environments and in their communities. The predominant perception of gender and sexually diverse individuals in schools and broader communities in Southern Africa is still of a very heteronormative, traditional and conservative nature. Misconceptions and myths around gender identity and sexual orientation can have serious consequences to the good health, wellbeing and safety of learners. The rationale for the project is that schooling communities need to be equipped to address issues of discrimination towards LGBTIQ youth who are subjected to ridicule and physical violence in their communities.
Schooling communities consist of staff members who are responsible for policy development at schools (Principals, Head of Departments, etc.), members from the respective government departments responsible for education, community leaders (including in civil society and clergy), and can sometimes include parents. Given that schools are critical spaces for social change within communities, there are other stakeholders from civil society and religious institutions who are also part of schooling communities. These key stakeholders are in a position to address these issues and to foster a culture of safety and acceptance in school environments, so the project is designed to raise awareness and encourage empathy amongst community leaders.
The School’s Out Project aims to engage and capture the experiences and opinions of stakeholders across 16 countries from the SADC region. These stakeholders include government officials, grassroots organizations, individual activists, as well as religious institutions. GALA will facilitate and document the ensuing dialogues between all stakeholders involved, as they set out to develop curriculums for schools in the region that prioritise sexual orientation and gender identity and the way these intersect in the fight against gender based violence in the region. With more information and deepened awareness, these stakeholders can challenge homophobia and transphobia in schools and provide a greater sense of safety, inclusion and respect for gender and sexual diverse learners and staff in mitigating gender based violence. The School’s Out Project will be developed to include a quantitative and qualitative dimension to its research output.