“Girl Force: Unscripted and Unstoppable”

Female 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.

FSNT 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.

However, 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 harassment.

Locally, 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.

#StepUp

#GirlsFirst

#SmartGirlsSafety

YOUR VIEWS AND COMMENTS ARE WELCOME

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 Contacts; +263 775 054 755/ +263 772 959 590

  Email: femalestudent2011@gmail.com

Female Students Network Trust (FSNT) was a life changer to its advocacy member (Audrey Matambo) who had been booted out by her University for initiating protests against water rationing and lack of adequate sanitary facilities.

UNESCO laureate helps a young woman in Zimbabwe pursue her studies

12 August 2019

Audrey Matambo (FSNT Advocacy Member).

© FSNT

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. 

https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-laureate-helps-young-woman-zimbabwe-pursue-her-studies

Sexual Harassment Awareness

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.

Student Scenarios


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.

Awards

FSNT has been recognised for their hard work and continuous efforts in addressing the plight of female students with awards at national and international level.

FSNT Staff celebrating the fruits of their hardwork
In 2015, at National level FSNT won an award for the most outstanding civic organization FOR Human Rights Defenders.
1n 2016, at an international level FSNT was conferred with the UNESCO 1st Edition Prize for Girls and Women Education in Beijing, China.

Activities

EDUTAINMENT SHOWS

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. .

Knowledge Generation

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.

Debates

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.

Our Success Stories

In 2013 and 2014, FSNT managed to second two female students Thando Gwinji from (Solusi University) and Tadiwa Chantel Chokwenda(from Catholic University) for a Student leader’s Civic engagement scholarship at Nebraska University in the United States of America granted by the US Embassy.Thando Gwinji came back and managed to form her own organisation called the Genesis of Innovations Trust based in Bulawayo, targeting rural young women on Information Communication Technology. Tadiwa Chantelle Chokwenda from Catholic university also did so well during her study in America by linking FSNT to other like-minded platforms in the states.

During other endevours, Chiedza Chiwetu a single mother and bread winner in her family graduated with a Bsc Honours Degree in Psychology.Ms Ciwetu testified that she managed to finish her degree despite the many obstacles she faced at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ).She stated that “Being a single mother and a student was not easy but through the support from her family and the strength from Almighty God it was possible. She states that “FSNT has also supported me all the way throughout my Degree they have moulded me into the woman that I am today who knows her value and her vision as a woman. “I also got a lot of exposure when I went to Namibia in 2013 representing students in Zimbabwe under a regional advocacy platform organised by Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe”.
Another FSN member, Daylite Marufu a former student at Belvedere Technical Teachers’ College says she owes her success to God. Daylite also attributed her success to the teachings she got form FSNT.“I would like to thank FSN for their moral support. The Network taught me to value myself as a woman and not let taken advantage of by men. I took this advice seriously and I will forever be grateful for it,” she added.

Our Organization

Organizational Structure
FSNT is governed by a board of trustees who are the custodians of the Network. Its mandate is to play an oversight role and helping in the formulation, review and implementation of the Network policies.
THEMATIC AREAS
The following thematic areas define FSNT’s work
Nb: In chronology there are:

  1. Women’s participation in leadershipof student bodies
  2. Women’s and Human Rights
  3. Policy Advocacy
  4. Media Advocacy
  5. Psycho-social Support

Organisational Success Stories
Currently, FSNT has 8,640 paid up members and over 20 000 registered members who are directly involved with the Network and participate in its activities in various tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe. FSNT managed to get support letters from Government ministries such as Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education Science and Technology Development. These stakeholders and Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit attend our programmes and activities and have a buy in on our vision and seek to be the conduits of influence on policy review during the cabinet meetings for further deliberations and seek redress.
Breaking barriers of Partriachy
In 2012, at Mutare teachers college, FSNT made history in the activism journey when female students stood up and broke the barriers patriarchal societal ills by dominating the student representative council at their college. Despite facing challenges of being looked down upon by other female students, these young ladies have braved enough and took the most influential positions in the student representative council. Virginia Chipumo became the new SRC president, while Monica Nemutambwe and Charity Muchichwa occupied the position of secretary general and finance officer respectively. The Entertainment Officer’s post was taken by Sarah Tionesei and the Food Representative was Grace Kunaka while the Sports Officer post belonged to Jesman Mukwera. Only one male student took up the gender secretary post which has been long prescribed to female students. It should be noted that these girls have overcame socialisation and cultural gender norms which stereotype women that they can not be leaders.These achievements attributed from the leadership development trainings they got from FSNT where members graduate in TEIs with merit certificates in various disciplines
The Network has also managed to reach out to most marginalised insitutions such as Gwanda where it has effectively and efficiently worked with female students at Joshua Mquabuko Nkomo Poly Technical College (Matebeleland South province). One vigilant young lady Jolly Jane (2nd year female student of the time) bragged that the Network has helped her more with leadership skills since she was in her 1st year. Jolly, who is a survivor of breast cancer has given herself the name “Iron lady” because despite being a single mother and a cancer survivor Jolly has managed to occupy the leadership position of secretary at her institution- against all odds. The knowledge and skills acquired, she is gladly passing it on to other fellow female students as well as at her rural primary school where she is doing her teaching practice.

Policy Advocacy

What is it?

Our Policy advocacy programs lobby government ministries to ensure that institutional policies of Tertiary Education Institutions (TEIs) are more gender sensitive. FSNT engages parliamentarians , line ministries, ministers ,college authorities and relevant stakeholders through varied interfaces. Dialogue is employed to discuss and review policies through presentation of pertinent matters before different parliamentary portfolios.These authorities are invited to actively participate in the Network’s programs at grassroots level so that they have a vivid understanding of the realities on the ground. It is also a conducive platform that FSNT has managed to create for female students to interact with these authorities and air out their concerns.In 2015 ,the Network carried out a National Baseline Survey on Sexual Harassment in TEIs in Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces.Key findings showed that of the sampled TEIs only 4 had Sexual Harassment Policies and one a draft.Male lectures were found to be the major perpetrators.Current efforts are directed at advocacy for the formulation and effective implementation of Sexual Harassment Policies within TEI’s.

Objective

➢ To advocate for gender sensitive policies and practices of Student Representative Councils (SRCs) and other student bodies in tertiary Education institutions

Successes to date

In 2017, FSNT managed to design a Sexual Harassment (SH) Policy Guideline adopted by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development which is being used by institutions to come up with SH policies.Follow link to read more.
(https://www.scribd.com/document/343987122/Sexual-Harrasment-Policy-Guideline)

The Network has managed to generate information through research regarding the prevalence of Sexual Harassment and Gender Based Violence in TEI’s which provides a rationale for advocacy initiatives .

FSNT was invited by the Minister of Gender and Community Development , Honourable Nyasha Chikwinya to discuss furthering the Networks ‘advocacy work with regards to the Revised National Gender Policy.