Students Network Trust (FSNT) joins the rest of the world in celebrating the
International Day of the Girl Child under this year’s theme: “Girl Force:
Unscripted and Unstoppable”. This day reminds us of nearly 25 years ago, when
about 30,000 women and men from nearly 200 countries arrived in Beijing, China
for the Fourth World Conference on Women, determined to recognize the rights of
women and girls as human rights. The conference culminated in the adoption of
the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: the most comprehensive policy
agenda for the empowerment of women.
is pleased with this year’s theme which ought to celebrate achievements by,
with and for girls since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform
for Action as it is in tangent with our just ended 14th anniversary
theme where we were celebrating 14 years of empowering female students. We are
happy that we have managed to achieve numerous and notable feats since we
started advocating for gender equality and the upliftment of the girl child
although a lot still needs to be done.
we are made to celebrate this day with mixed feelings prompted by the recently
published video showing high levels of sexual harassment in tertiary
institutions of Nigeria and Ghana. This is a wake-up call for the whole of
Africa to #StepUp and fight against sexual harassment. We reiterate that sexual
harassment is real and its rampant in educational institutions with current
statistic reflecting the girl child as the most affected one. We plead with the
African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Committee (SADC) to
start working on crafting policies and chatters that directly deals with sexual
we call on our government to enact a law on sexual harassment. We continue to
lobby for the adherence of human rights in particular women’s rights and the
championing of gender equality.
For Audrey Matambo, a 22-year-old university student and young activist from Harare, the support received from 2016 laureate of the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education, the Female Students Network Trust (FSNT), was life changing.
FSNT in partnership with the U.S Embassy of Zimbabwe is implementing a fun run program which seeks to engage youth, raise awareness and change perceptions of young males on gender-based violence (GBV) including Sexual Harassment and domestic violence. The sports envoy program included the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) alumni who through an Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund, conducted an advocacy campaign called “Conversations with our Fathers” the project deconstructed patriarchal thinking and challenged long held notions of male dominance and entitlement. It also called for fathers and men to play a positive role in creating safe spaces for women and girls. The Sport Envoy and MWF alumni will run across Zimbabwe engaging and motivating male students at tertiary education institutions to change perceptions on sexual harassment, gender-based violence and abuse. Athletics in Zimbabwe is a growing and popular sport with minor and major marathons populating the calendar year and attracting people from all walks of life.
FSNT in partnership with The Zimbabwe National Commission for UNESCO is implementing a #GirlsFirst project under the theme “emancipating rural school girls through fighting gendered discrimination and stereotypes”. The #GirlsFirst program will help Capacitate girls and community leaders on reporting channels in the case of GBV, monitor and evaluate barriers to policy and laws’ effective implementation and proffer solutions to address them. In the long run this project helps establish support systems that encourage girl empowerment. The project is targeting 8 provinces which include Mashonaland East, Manicaland, Masvingo, Matebeland North, Matebeleland South Midlands, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West.
A community dialogue on the emancipation of Rural school girls in Zimbabwe was held in Murewa district at Dombodzvuku Secondary school, Rongwe High School in Makoni District and Jenya High School in Chivi district, . The objectives of the dialogue were to raise awareness on the contents of Section 56 of the constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) ACT 2013 on Gender and Discrimination and national gender policies and to enhance the skills and capacities of duty bearers to effectively deal with vulnerabilities of girls in the community and establish support systems that encourage girl empowerment.
It was noted that the cultural thread that upheld “Ubuntu” and respect has dissolved thereby leading to the exploitation of the girl child. The dialogue also managed to pick out the effects where girl children are reported to get asleep during lessons due to tiredness as a result of too many household chores that the boy child is not exposed to with worst cases being dropping out of school. It was also noted that at least 18 students drop out of school because of pregnancy in every three years due to early indulgence in sexual activities which comes as a result of the long distance travelled to and from school. The outcome of the dialogue was in form of recommendations raised by the participants with the hope that they might uplift the rural girl child.
In 2011, FSNT received over 30 cases of female students being sexually harassed nationwide with particular reference to NUST(Bulawayo province),Masvingo(Great Zimbabwe University, Mashava Campus),Belvedere Teachers College, Catholic University, Africa University Mutare Poly and Midlands State University which recorded 25 cases between 2012 and 2013.
In 2015 ,FSNT successfully carried out a National Baseline Survey on Sexual Harassment. Only 4 TEI’s out of the 21 sampled isntitution had Sexual Harassment Policies in place with only 1 had a draft. The major perpetrators were found to be male lectures and male non academic staff. Currently FSNT has intensified efforts to advocate for the formulation and effective implementation of Sexual Harassment Policies. FSNT managed to acquire reinstatement of a female student who was suspended at the National University of Science And Technology after she lost three academic years because she was a victim of sexual harassment. The lecturer got fired as a result of FSNT Advocacy.
CASE SCENARIO What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is unwelcome and uninvited sexual advances, request for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. (def from UN http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/pdf/whatissh.pdf)
Sexual harassment may include but is not limited to: • Unwelcome commentary about an individual’s body shape, clothing or sexual activity • Unwelcome jokes, gestures, offensive words or teasing of a sexual nature or based upon gender/sex stereotypes • Unwanted touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting, grapping around the waist, or interfering with a person’s ability to move • Staring in a sexually suggestive or offensive manner, or whistling • Unwanted pressure for sexual favours • Unwanted pressure for dates • Unwelcome Hugging, kissing, patting or massaging Unwelcome Behavior is the critical word.
In 2015 between June and August, FSNT carried out a national baseline survey on sexual harassment of female students in the tertiary education institutions of Zimbabwe. The major objective of the survey was to understand the prevalence, nature and landscape of sexual harassment of female students in various institutional geographical location so as to come up with strategic interventions for redress. The survey revealed that out of the 21 sampled institutions, only 4 had sexual harassment policy in place which clearly shows that there are no mechanisms and support system for female students in the sector when it comes to sexual abuse.
The network carried out edutainment shows at Bindura University of Science Education and at Great Zimbabwe University to generate knowledge on Sexual Harassment. The objectives of these campaigns were to disseminate information on the forms and nature of Sexual Harassment, the reporting channels and be wise in the decisions they make knowing that they have rights that also come with responsibilities. During these shows the FSNT staff presented and encouraged female students to speak out if they are harassed and not be afraid to report the perpetrators. The brand ambassador for the #smartgirls campaign Shinsoman carried out performances during these edutainment shows spreading the message of Sexual harassment urging the female students to fight such an ill. The result of the edutainment shows was increased awareness on what constitutes sexual harassment and the proper reporting channels
COMMEMORATIONS OF THE 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM AGAINST GENDER BASED VIOLENCE
FSNT joins the rest of the world every year in the commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence and observes the Zimbabwean Government 365 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. As a way of launching the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based violence, in 2016 the network in collaboration with the African Women Development Fund(AWDF) held a march in Harare. The campaign was launched under the theme #stopcyberharassment. This was after a realization by the network that cyber harassment has become the trend of Harassment that female students and young women are facing. .
The Network has
been enhancing sexual harassment campaigns with the aim of increasing awareness
levels making use of online campaigns on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Discussions
held aim at ensuring that female students are aware of the various manifestations of sexual harassment and the reporting channels in instances
of abuse. FSNT also uses the
mainstream media such as the radio and TV news in a bid to reach out to a broader audience. During the radio shows, audiences
call in giving their views and seeking clarity on some issues regarding sexual
harassment and abuse. This becomes a platform to ensure solidarity with the
general public, as the Network realises that female
students do not live in a vacuum but co-exist with members of the community.
After the Media campaigns, FSNT has been observing an increase in the number of students seeking
assistance from the Network with regards to such cases.
The Network has been carrying out debates and dialogues in various provinces on the manifestation and effects of sexual violence in line with women’s rights violations. College authorities and administrators, as well as policy makers are usually present during the debates with the aim of ensuring that the students lobby and advocate for the protection of female students in tertiary education institutions through the formulation and effective implementation of sexual harassment policies. In instances where the students debate, the policy makers and ministry representatives act as adjudicators and ensure that the judging process is not flawed and that students who present factual and convincing arguments are awarded accordingly. The debates also help bring the institutional authorities to book as the students interrogate the system and lobby and advocate for change within the institution in the form of policies and procedures that see perpetrators being brought to book.
EDUCATIONAL WELLNESS PROGRAMS. SAY YES! YOUTH EMPOWERMENT ON SRHR,
FSNT is carrying out educational wellness programs on sexual and reproductive health. This is a platform to allow female students to air out their views and discuss about their sexual reproductive health in a free and fun environment. The program came into being after the realization that female students had no quality and comprehensive access to information on sexual and reproductive health hence the need to share best practices and raise awareness on these rights. The Educational-wellness program targets female students, the top officials at national and institutional level as well as the top student leadership within TEI’s.