Stop Rape, Educate's chalk art pieces on the pavement outside the food court at UCT's Upper Campus. File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA

During this year's 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women and Children, Independent Media continues our #DontLookAway campaign by shining a spotlight on sexual harassment. 

Cape Town - Young South African women have declared that enough is enough on university campuses, and have taken to the streets to organise in protest at sexual harassment.

In August, a large crowd gathered at UCT to stand in solidarity and protest with sexual assault victims and rape survivors.

This silent protest saw the taping of mouths and a silent march through the campus. A memorial service then followed as a symbolic gesture for those who were raped and murdered due to gender-based violence.

Campaigns and protests like these have highlighted that there is a need for university systems to address, respond to and prevent sexual violence more effectively.

University of the Western Cape Professor Cherrel Africa said the institution has a comprehensive policy aimed at dealing with sexual harassment and gender-based violence on campus.

“The UWC’s council approved its newly updated sexual violence policy on June 28, 2018.

“When there is an alleged sexual assault, a series of processes are immediately put into place by the university. The university is also rolling out intensive first-responder training to a wide range of campus stakeholders to reduce secondary trauma and to encourage survivors to seek further care.

“The university processes for reporting on sexual violence involves investigations, legal advice, counselling and support services that involve role-players in the gender equity unit, residential services, campus health, therapeutic services, campus protection services, legal and human resources services.

“Student leadership structures, peers, employee representative structures, academic departments and faculties, among other university community members, play an important role in referring victims of sexual violence accordingly.”

To address the gender-based violence more broadly, UWC is embarking on gender reconciliation training.

This is a three-year training programme aimed at changing mindsets and behaviours.

“This training is innovative in its approach of addressing gender conditioning and gender injustice.

It is being facilitated by GenderWorks, a Cape Town-based non-governmental organisation. The overall objective of the project is to contribute to transforming gender relations between young women and men on campus and at residences at UWC.”

The long-term objectives of the gender reconciliation programmes are to contribute towards:

1. Transforming underlying gender and sexual injustice and inequality;

2. Reducing levels of gender-based and sexual violence, including among communities at particular risk of this; and

3. Establishing just and compassionate relations between the sexes.

Stellenbosch University is also playing its role in combating sexual harassment on campus.

The policy on unfair discrimination and harassment was approved by the Stellenbosch University council in September 2016 and has been implemented since then.

“This is managed primarily by the equality unit,” university spokesperson Martin Viljoen said.

“The unit co-ordinates, educates and raises awareness around HIV/Aids, sexualities, gender non-violence and anti-discrimination; oversees the implementation of policies on unfair discrimination and harassment, and HIV/Aids; and presents short courses, curriculum infusion and training.

“The unit has received strong support by management, the executive, staff and students, and we now have eight staff engaging with a range of issues around gender violence, discrimination and harassment.

“There are a number of entry points where gender-based violence, rape and sexual harassment and misconduct can be reported and dealt with to enable a diversity of reporting.

“Some victims/survivors prefer to report via online, some anonymous, some via psychologists after some time of the incidences, some directly to the police, some through internal reporting lines, etc.

“Those providing support are guided by the victim/survivor.

“This policy links strongly with the disciplinary code for students of Stellenbosch University.

“The institutional HIV policy has also recently been revised by a task team, co-ordinated by the equality unit, and is in the process of institutional approval with the aim of having it implementable by 2019.”

How to show your support:

* Take the pledge against sexual harassment

* Join and like Be The Change Mzansi on Facebook. 

* Follow the Don't Look Away campaign on IOL

* Follow us on the Facebook pages of Daily NewsCape Argus and The Star.