UNESCO laureate helps a young woman in Zimbabwe pursue her studies
12 August 2019
Audrey Matambo (FSNT Advocacy Member).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.