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GDI News

Winter 2003 Issue # 3
Women, Violence and Adult Education

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Since it's inception in 1974, the Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) has provided funding for over 750 projects related to women's education. Topics for these projects have ranged widely within the realm of gender and education-often following trends in research and practice-but a fairly consistent topic has been the intersection of gendered violence and education. As early as 1980, WEEA grantees began addressing the issue of sexual harassment through training programs for educators, students, and administrators, and continue to be cutting-edge programs in the field. While early projects focused on higher education, more recent grants have focused on prevention programs with children as young as kindergarten. In addition to sexual harassment awareness and prevention, WEEA grantees have also focused on adult education programs for those that have experienced gendered violence.

One current WEEA grantee that has been receiving a lot of attention is the Women, Violence and Adult Education Project at World Education in Boston, Massachusetts. This three-year program begun in 1999 was created to assist adult educators in integrating their knowledge of violence and its effects on literacy training for women. The project's director, Elizabeth Morrish, states that the idea for the grant came from her and her colleagues' experience as adult educators. "We saw that the levels of violence amongst our students was high, and we noticed the impacts on their learning." The project's staff adhered to the philosophy that everyone is touched by the violence in our society, and educators need to make the connection between what they know about violence and their teaching methodology.

In order to achieve this objective, project staff offered a series of professional development services for adult educators that brought the discussion of violence and education into their classrooms. Ms. Morrish related that the greatest outcome of the grant was seeing the participants' shift in thinking about the connection between violence and education. They began accessing different ways of learning, like using visual arts programs to help students communicate, or changing their work environment to be safer and more comfortable, or offering support groups for meeting to discuss their experiences. Even staff at the Women, Violence and Adult Education Project experienced revelations throughout the process, and really felt that they were taking the research about violence and putting it into practice. "It really has been amazing. After 12 years as a adult educator, I can honestly say that this has been the most profound project I have worked on," stated Ms. Morrish.

Although the WEEA grant that sponsors the program expires this fall, its staff plans to continue the impact of their work through the publication of a Sourcebook, which will contain a collection of writings from the project, as well as reflections from the project's staff. The grant has also left its mark on the adult education programs that participated. Many of them have found some funding to implement changes or hire specialists to address the issues they discovered in their work.

For more information about the Women, Violence and Adult Education Project contact Elizabeth Morrish at World Education, 44 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210-1211; 617-482-9485; email:
For more information about other WEEA grantees, other resources on gendered violence and education, or to access the WEEA Equity Resource Center's services, contact us at 800-225-3088 or


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