Header Honduras v2 - The transformative power of secondary education

The transformative power of secondary education

Understanding issues that may facilitate secondary school participation and learning is now more important than ever

By Begoña Fernandez, Senior Technical Officer, Together for Girls

Secondary school students must be safe at home, in school and in their communities.

There is wide consensus on the benefits of entering and completing secondary school for individuals, families, communities and countries. 


The Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) provide important data that can help address barriers to education and inform interventions to improve the school environment that can ultimately lead to improvements in enrolment and graduation rates.


Together for Girls and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with support from Global Affairs Canada, analyzed VACS data from 12 countries to understand the association between level of education* and several sociodemographic and violence variables.


With the results of the initial analyses and guided by the input of experts, we conducted a series of multivariable logistic regressions to further explore the relationship between violence and level of education in Honduras, Lesotho and Uganda. For the purposes of this blog, we are focusing on the findings from Honduras and key implications for both the country and the field.

What are the VACS?

The Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) are nationally-representative household surveys of 13-24 year olds that measure the magnitude, context and consequences of sexual, physical and emotional violence.

Learn more about the VACS

Honduras, a leader in violence prevention for children and adolescents

Over the past few years, Honduras took important steps to address all forms of violence against children and youth.


In 2017, Honduras became the first country in Latin America to conduct a VACS. At that time, the Government of Honduras made a public commitment to take action to end violence against children and also became a pathfinding country of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.


Building on the VACS data, the first-ever National Action Plan to End Violence Against Children and Adolescents in Honduras will be launched in late 2021.

Despite the immense challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Honduras continues to prioritize the education and wellbeing of children, adolescents and young people.


The Ministry of Education will play a key role in the implementation of the country’s National Action Plan to End Violence Against Children and is also leading efforts to ensure a safe and equal return to in-person learning, which includes addressing learning losses and dropouts due to pandemic-related school closures. 

Honduras VACS 2017

Honduras Violence Against Children and Youth Survey Report - The transformative power of secondary education

Considering students' unique risks in violence prevention interventions

The findings from our analysis of Honduras VACS data reinforce the many benefits of secondary education and the critical role it plays in interrupting gender unequal attitudes and improving health and economic outcomes for students, particularly for adolescent girls.


However, the findings also highlight potential risks for those attending secondary school and the need to take those unique risks into consideration when designing and implementing violence prevention interventions.

In Honduras, secondary education is transformational

[All data among adolescents and young people (ages 13-24) in Honduras. All differences are statistically significant at p<0.05 (differences between those who completed primary school or less and those who attended or completed secondary school or more)]

The longer adolescents are in school, the less likely they are to have gender unequal beliefs and justify intimate partner violence.

Honduras Factsheet

Honduras Fact Sheet - The transformative power of secondary education

To learn about attitudes toward gender, the VACS asks survey respondents if they believe a series of questions about gender roles, such as “only men, not women, should decide when to have sex” or “a woman should tolerate violence to keep her family together.”
To learn about attitudes towards physical intimate partner violence against women, survey respondents were asked if they believe a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife in certain situations, such as if she goes out without telling him or if she argues with him.

Adolescent pregnancy and child marriage are linked to not completing secondary school

However, adolescents and young people who attend secondary school in Honduras may face unique risks

Those who attended or completed secondary school in Honduras were more likely to experience certain forms of sexual violence.


After controlling for age, childhood orphanhood, child marriage and closeness with mother**, adolescents and young people who attended or completed secondary school had significantly greater odds of experiencing unwanted sexual touching or attempted physically forced or coerced sex.

Although the findings show that those who attended or completed secondary school faced an increased risk of non-penetrative sexual violence, we do not know if that violence occurred at home, at work, at school, on the way to school or somewhere else. Additional research is needed to better understand the context of the violence, including location and perpetrators of violence. 

We know what works to prevent sexual violence at home, in schools and in the community

The findings from Honduras highlight the many protective aspects of secondary education—more equitable gender beliefs and lower rates of pregnancy and child marriage. In addition, a secondary education is protective against ever experiencing physically forced and coerced sex for adolescent girls and young women. Honduras must do more to ensure that students continue to and graduate from secondary school. Even before COVID-19, only about half of girls (51%) and 42% of boys completed upper secondary school.*** 


Our findings also suggest that attending secondary school may increase the risk for certain forms of sexual violence including unwanted sexual touching and attempted forced or coerced sex. Efforts to create safe and supportive school environments are essential in promoting educational access and completion. 


Explore additional data, evidence and solutions to violence in and around schools on  Together for Girls’ education hub


Find resources on what works to prevent sexual violence against children, adolescents and youth on Together for Girls’ SV Solutions hub

* For this analysis, level of education was defined as having completed primary school or less, or attended/completed secondary school or more.
**Survey respondents were asked, “How close do/did you feel to your biological mother? Would you say very close, close, not close or do not have/never had a relationship with her?
***UNESCO Institute for Statistics http://data.uis.unesco.org/ 

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