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Action planning

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Framing and priming sexual exploitation

Question: How can sexual exploitation be framed so that it resonates with audiences and does not alienate people?

Solution: Share solutions at the same time as the problem to make people more comfortable to join the conversation.

  • Highlight abuse of power as the key message as this should be understood by everyone. Reframe the issue as ‘grades for sex’, ‘jobs for sex’ and ‘fees for sex’ rather than the other way around to highlight this abuse of power.
  • The framing of sex for grades and sex for jobs should focus on the role of entrusted authorities exploiting their power. The framing of sex for fees should note that it is still an abuse of power, but the abuse is not by an entrusted authority.
  • It is important to expand the framing beyond education fees to cover living costs, school books and uniforms, etc.

Reasons to give to support this framing:

  • Economic justice and equality are disrupted by sexual exploitation.
  • Adolescence is when the brain develops and rewires, so it is particularly important to protect young people from trauma at this time.
  • Sexual exploitation is often treated as consensual sex, but this is not the case.

Question: How to get the issue on the global agenda (governments, multilaterals, funders, employers, programme delivery)?

Solution: Drive the discussion and build momentum by:

  • Using evidence to demonstrate that this is a global problem.
  • Using campaigns to ensure the issue is talked about, including through side events and speakers at global events such as the UNGA Global Education Forum.
  • Leveraging the capacity of the Brave Movement to bring the conversation to a global level.
  • Incorporating sexual exploitation into the agenda of the Safe to Learn global initiative. This coalition controls significant financing of education in low- and middle-income countries.

Question: How to build the data and evidence?

This is key for visibility. Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer did not formerly measure sextortion so it provided an inaccurate picture of corruption. Due diligence in supply chains sometimes looks for evidence of human trafficking but does not currently look for sexual exploitation.


  • Add questions on sextortion to regular and large-scale surveys – e.g., the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and VAC surveys. This would help address sample biases in online self-reported surveys.
  • Use social media like Facebook to disseminate anonymous surveys, recognising that existing methodologies for collecting data may not yield accurate results given the sensitive nature of the questions (i.e. focus groups or surveys conducted in schools do not lead survivors to feel safe from retribution or public humiliation to discuss issues openly).
  • Invest in longitudinal studies on adolescents and youth – e.g., ODI’s GAGE study, the WHO Global Adolescent Survey (GEAS), and the Young Lives survey where the same individuals are followed over time – both programming participants and control groups – to see what works in the short- and long-term in diverse contexts.
  • Add a training module on sexual exploitation for researchers collecting data on GBV via the surveys listed above.
  • Test the effectiveness of interventions by having baselines and longitudinal data monitoring.
  • Design key performance indicators (KPIs) on corruption and integrity for corporate supply chains.
  • Develop shared learning spaces (e.g., a WhatsApp group, a resource hub, a list of relevant events, policy documents).
  • Amplify survivor voices, including via digital tools, whilst ensuring a DNH approach.

What can education institutions do to address sexual exploitation?

Key advocacy messages: 

  • Education is a basic human right; sexual exploitation is hindering women’s and girls’ right to education.
  • Education institutions can contribute to an enabling environment to counter education/grades/jobs for sex.
  • The power of education to transform gendered social norms.

Question: What can education institutions do to prevent sexual exploitation and change behaviour at scale?


  • Develop mandatory gender transformative curricula that is evidence-based, play-based, context-specific, age appropriate, and which encourages boys and men to reject violence/entitlement to sex.
  • Encourage cross-learning on the delivery of gender transformative curricula, including strategies for overcoming political resistance (e.g., the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) have a partner coalition for ending gender stereotypes).
  • Explore whether these curricula could be credit based so there are incentives to complete them, particularly in higher education settings. Engage student leaders and student-led organisations in the design and delivery of these curricula.
  • Include and scale up psychosocial support mechanisms for survivors.
  • Ensure that teachers are held accountable through codes of conduct and annual review processes, and are aware of expected standards of behaviour. Learn from the South African example discussed in Box 4.
  • Examine and address systems that perpetuate violence (e.g., tenure, internships and research funding structures).
  • Create a badge for education institutions that take these issues seriously. Take inspiration from the garment industry where factories are audited by professional inspectors and receive badges if they pass.

 Question: What professional development/training is necessary?

  • Develop specific terminology to describe the range of acts that can constitute sexual harassment, abuse and GBV.
  • Train teachers (both pre- and in-service training) on their role in challenging gender norms. Provide regular training on safeguarding, prevention and response. Ensure this is an ongoing process that reinforces messages and adapts and responds to the changing nature of sexual exploitation.
  • Consider accredited training certification for security staff/others who interface with students.
  • Develop a code of ethics, ensuring it is visible and signed off by all staff.
  • Support student voice and engagement, e.g., student activism to prevent/respond to sexual exploitation.

Question: How can funders/governments/civil society hold educational institutions and partners accountable?

  • Introduce mandatory reporting of sexual exploitation in all education programmes.
  • Explore whether universities can be ranked by their prevention and response to sexual exploitation to incentivise institutions to take action. Include anti-corruption organisations in education programme design.

Question: How can educational institutions create an enabling environment to address sexual exploitation?

  • Create clear policies and structures for prevention, mitigation, and response, including safeguarding policies, coordinated accountability systems and transparency for all students and staff.
  • Ensure there is dialogue on safeguarding policies with a broad range of actors and groups in universities to get buy-in.
  • Consider campus safety audits to cover protocols, tribunals, and the effectiveness of response mechanisms.
  • Explore digital pathways for reporting, including anonymous procedures.
  • Develop recruitment protocols to ensure robust selection processes, e.g., values-based interviews.

What are the challenges that development practitioners face in getting finance to young women and girls?


  • Often focus on specific SDGs;
  • Predominantly focus on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) rather than education;
  • Usually have limited ability to fund the public sector directly or indirectly;
  • Are usually limited to funding projects of a certain value.

DFIs lend to banks which in turn can lend to girls. However, banks are often hesitant to provide loans to young women living in poverty due to:

  • Reputational risks;
  • Women and girls’ lack of credit history;
  • Lack of visibility on women and girls’ repayment capacity due to high unemployment;
  • The perceived ethical risk of lending to vulnerable populations.

Other concerns:

  • Importance of finding scalable solutions, i.e., lending to a high number of young women.
  • Importance of producing tailored solutions depending on the age group of the young women in question.


1. Impact bonds

Pros: Opportunity to engage a diverse range of investors to absorb risk. Encourage collaboration and sharing responsibility across partners and sectors.

Cons: Expensive and complex, and therefore slow to procure.

2. Income share agreements, e.g., Chancen

Pros: Investors absorb risk whilst recipients only pay back when it is feasible. Encourages collaboration and community building with recipients.

Cons: Organisations with high liquidity are required to fund this model; not demonstrably scalable.

3. Blended finance – where bilateral/multilateral donors guarantee the risk of a DFI/bank loan, e.g., guarantee funds. 

Pros: DFIs may be more willing to take on riskier clients; scalable.

Cons: There may be political opposition to this approach (e.g., opposition to the idea of public money supporting IFIs/DFIs).

The Kenya social bond was noted as a good example of blended finance.

  • Standard student loans, e.g., GFF, LEAP

Questions to take forward:

  • How can organisations reduce risk for banks to lend?
  • What should the role of philanthropy be in funding these projects?
  • What should the role of legislation be in this area?

Action point:

  • Research different blended finance options appropriate to different stages in the education life cycle (e.g., to meet the needs of girls under 18 compared to women over 18) and the business case for different funders. Map the stakeholders that will be part of blended finance solutions.

Potential solutions to change social norms that enable sexual exploitation/sextortion


Charter to End Sex for Education Fees, Grades and First Jobs

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