Young people who lack access to affordable forms of funding for their education, too often face coercion to have sex for education fees, passing grades, jobs and advancement. In its most extreme and common practices, the problem of financial “sponsors” exploiting mostly girls desperate to fund education expenses as well as the rampant abuse of “sex for grades” at education institutions globally is widely known, yet under-researched and under-discussed. This is an issue in all continents.
This Wilton Park conference will focus on how to end the sexual exploitation and abuse of girls and young women by authority figures during their education and early work experience journeys. It will gather diverse participants to progress this needed international conversation and foster a network of engaged organisations to cooperate for change.
In 2019, Wilton Park held a conference (WP1696) to discuss violence against youth in higher education. This has had an impact, resulting in a draft safeguarding code of practice, implementation of new safeguarding measures across the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)’s programming, and multilateral-level commitments. However, this has not always resulted in change in practice, and safeguarding policies and related laws are still not widely enforced.
This conference will explore how to change social norms to increase the enforcement of these policies. It will also address systemic causes and at-scale solutions around education financing and funding, exploring how funders of education and training can use their power to give recommendations more teeth as well as identifying new approaches to provide effective safeguards.
The conference will also contribute to a new global campaign — Rights, Freedom, Potential — launched by the FCDO under its 2023 International Women and Girls Strategy to drive conversation and action on women’s and girls’ rights.