On Human Rights Day, #PurpleMySchool campaign reflects on safer learning spaces created for LGBTI learners across Asia-Pacific

Dec 10, 2015

Thousands reached at all levels of the education sector and in communities throughout region in UNESCO and UNDP-initiated campaign that concludes today

Bangkok – From online actions to large-scale events in schools and communities, and from the student through to the ministerial level, the #PurpleMySchool campaign has seen significant advances in the push for safer learning spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex (LGBTI) learners in Asia-Pacific.

Launched ahead of International Youth Day, August 12, by UNESCO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Being LGBTI in Asia initiative, the #PurpleMySchool campaign officially ends today, Human Rights Day.

#PurpleMySchool grew out of recognition of the need for safer spaces for LGBTI youth. UNESCO's recently released report, From Insult to Inclusion, for example, found that bullying of LGBTI students in the region is widespread and that education sector response to the problem is inadequate.

The campaign invited supporters to show LGBTI youth that they can feel safe in their classrooms and schools by using the hashtag #PurpleMySchool to share photos and messages of support.

Over 13,000 likes on the #PurpleMySchool Facebook page demonstrated how deeply the campaign resonated with people from throughout Asia-Pacific. The momentum carried over into on-the-ground action with at least 22 schools in 11 countries identified as holding events and many more engaged in sharing the campaign’s messages. Campaign materials that were translated into six languages (Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese, English, Hindi, Thai, and Vietnamese) contributed to the spread of the #PurpleMySchool message across the region.

Demonstrating the reach of the campaign at all levels of the education sector, Dr. Hari Lamsal, Joint Secretary of Nepal's Ministry of Education, spoke recently at one of several Purple My School events arranged by the Blue Diamond Society in Nepal (school function pictured above), with support from UNDP Nepal and UNESCO Nepal. Dr Lamsal spoke of the need for curriculum and teacher training courses to reflect issues sexual orientation and gender identity.

Human Rights Day is a fitting occasion on which to bring the #PurpleMySchool campaign to a close, both to celebrate the region-wide show of support for safe learning spaces for all learners through the campaign, as well as to reflect on the obstacles that remain for LGBTI youth throughout the region. For far too many of them, Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights," remains distant from the bullying, violence and other forms of harassment they experience at schools.

While the official involvement of UNESCO and UNDP in #PurpleMySchool concludes today, the core mission of the campaign aligns with the work done by both agencies, in the areas of education and policy reform, respectively. As such, both agencies will continue to share relevant resources on the #PurpleMySchool Facebook page and Twitter accounts.

The Campaign.com/PurpleMySchool page will be archived as well and it the hope of both organizations that the insights and examples of actions taken over the past five months continue to inspire and galvanize further work towards safe and inclusive schools in Asia-Pacific.

The #PurpleMySchool campaign was supported by the government of the Netherlands, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and USAID Regional Development Mission Asia.

For more, visit:

Contact information

Noel Boivin, UNESCO Bangkok, n.boivin@unesco.org

Ian Mungall, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, ian.mungall@undp.org 

A selection of photos highlighting the diverse and spirited shows of support for the #PurpleMySchool campaign is below. 

Viet Nam

Vinh Long Pride! Supporters of #PurpleMySchool were easy to spot at Viet Pride 2015 and Vinh Dong Pride as Vietnamese LGBTI people took to the streets in a show of pride and solidarity. Photo: Loan Vũ.

Philippines

Students at Quezon City High School joined our #PurpleMySchool campaign in one of dozens of submissions from schools throughout the region. No matter the size of the gathering, the spirit to advance LGBTI learners’ rights in Asia-Pacific was strong in all submissions to the #PurpleMySchool campaign. Photo: Aiza Fetalvero Baldonado.

American School of Bangkok

Students form the American School of Bangkok flex their Purple Power in this event described by one participant as, “A night dedicated to girl power, feminism, and showing support for LGBTQ youth. ‪#‎ThisIsWhatFeministsLookLike ‪#‎PurpleMySchool ‪#‎QueerMango”. Photo: Megan Rose.

Thailand

Transgender activist and international model Sarina Thai brought both glamor and a great message about the power of positivity and acceptance in schools to the students of Pibool Uppatham School in Bangkok. Photo: Noel Boivin.

Taiwan Province of China

#‎PurpleMySchool and Cambodia represented in style at ‪‎Taipei Pride 2015. The #PurpleMySchool campaign found supporters in diverse parts of the region uniting to support LGBTI learners’ right to a safe and inclusive learning environment.

India

Tagore International School in New Delhi India writes: Educational institutions are considered safe havens of learning, but...are they really? We … strive to establish an environment of inclusivity and remove the stigma of "abnormality" faced by those of alternative genders and sexualities. Let us join hands in working towards making our school corridors safe to roam about in.” Photo from Sohini Chakrabarti.

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