THE Students and Youths Working on Reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) has called on universities, polytechnic colleges, vocational training centers and other in institutions of higher learning to craft Gender Based Violence (GBV) policies in order to effectively deal with incidences of sexual exploitation in tertiary institutions.
By Michael Gwarisa
Cases of sexual harassment and exploitation have been on the increase in most universities and colleges in Zimbabwe even though there is no consolidated data to back it since most victims of Sexual and gender based violence and sexual exploitation don’t report the cases for fear of victimization and lack of protection afterwards.
Speaking during a Capitalk Radio program sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), SAYWHAT project officer Delight Murigo said it was difficult to quntify the number of students who would have fallen victim to sexual exploitation and abuse at tertiary level as some universities, colleges and training institutions do not have GBV and sexual exploitation policies in place.
The issues of sexual exploitation in universities and colleges is difficult to estimate unlike other thematic areas such as HIV and AIDS where you say prevalence is 13.7% because there are studies to that effect. The problem with sexual exploitation or harassment is that we do not consolidated data and when we conduct our baseline studies, those issues usually come out as anecdotal evidence or citations, they are very difficult to quantify here in Zimbabwe.
“You realise that for us to address issues of sexual exploitation in tertiary institutions, we first need to understand the nature of the problem and the nature of the problem differs from one institution to the other. For example, there might be institutions which do not have any mechanism at all in terms of GBV policies They do not have policies in place that address issues of sexual exploitation and GBV. So as an organization, we then find it difficult to have the foundation upon which we can support that institution,” said Murigo.
He added that in the event of harassment occurring, their primary focus will be that of assisting that institution to draft and finalise policies that protect students and employees from cases of sexual harassment. He also said SAYWHAT works with institutions that have GBV policies in place but lacking on enforcement.
[pullquote]“The next set of colleges will be those that have policies but the policies are poorly enforced. In that instant, it is more of advocacy trying to engage the college authorities and put them to task to ensure that whatever they have put in place in is adhered to.[/pullquote]
“From the policy, we go to the implementation. If the policy is being rolled out well or being implemented well, we will have limited challenges. For a policy to be fully implemented there are other support mechanism that have to be in place these include financial support mechanisms, popularizing the policies and other things that are needed to ensure that the policies are in place.”
SAYWHAT which started in 2003 as a platform for discussing issues around sexual reproductive health has now grown into implementing programs in tertiary institutions, training institutions, vocational training centers and agricultural colleges around the country.
A number of Universities in Zimbabwe now have sexual harassment policies in place. These include Bindura University, the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), Midlands State University (MSU) amongst others. Speaking during the radio show, CAMPAS Life and student development programs coordinator at Bindura University of Science and Technology, Dorothy Murasi said they are working with the university’s Students Representative Council (SRC) to ensure smooth flow of information regarding the school’s sexual harassment and GBV policy.
“At Bindura University of Science and Technology, we have a policy on sexual harassment and the policy covers both staff and students. When new staff members join the institution, they are oriented into that policy, they read the policy and they sign after having read the policy.
“The policy is also there on our website and is always at the students disposal. In our student handbook, we have put a brochure of the policy explaining what sexual harassment is and what one needs to do when they see that they are being harassed. Members of the student affairs are also oriented into the policy. We also have the Students Representative Council (SRC) and they have also been oriented into the policy and they assist in implementing the policy through their Gender and Health desk,” said Murasi.
Bindura University also has a Campas Activity board which is manged by the students and the secretary general for the SRC is also part of that board to ensure that clubs and associations are well versed in that policy and he cascades information to other clubs.