UFH moves to end Gender-Based Violence on Campus
As the country continues to grapple with the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV), the University of Fort Hare (UFH) has a taken zero-tolerance approach for GBV incidents on campus. The 103-year-old university has recently approved a GBV and Sexual Harassment policy whose main objective is to deal effectively and decisively with reported cases. To raise much-needed awareness on the policy, the institution held its first ever GBV Day.
Academic activities were brought to a halt at midday on 30th September and 1st October at the Alice and East London campuses respectively, to observe GBV Day. Staff, students and various stakeholders gathered at the Sports Complex in Alice and the ABC Hall in East London to engage in robust dialogue and dissect the approved policy.
The events started with a moment of silence in honor of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Jesse Hess and UFH alumnus, Leighandre “Baby-Lee” Jegels - three young women who were brutally murdered during women's month, in August 2019.
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sakhela Buhlungu, informed the audience that unfortunately like any other institution that exists in society, the university has also experienced GBV incidents. “There have been reported cases of victims who were being threatened with being de-registered if they speak out. But those days are now over. Let this policy travel, let it be shared and let people discuss it,” said Buhlungu.
Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola, Dean of Research and member of the Department of the Higher of Education Ministerial Task Team on GBV said although the policy was cause for celebration, this was just the beginning.
“Yes we have done well, but this is step one. Our problems will not be fixed by a policy. The problem will only be dealt with when we fundamentally change the culture of hierarchy. We celebrate the fact that we finally have a sexual harassment policy at UFH, but this is only the beginning of what we should be doing. We need to break the silence about who the perpetrators are and stop pretending as if it doesn't exist,” said Gqola
According to the Interim Registrar, Professor Patrick Osode, the university management has established an implementation task team to ensure the policy is implemented effectively, “The team will oversee the establishment of a GBV unit on all three campuses. The unit will have trained reporting officers who are equipped with the care, knowledge, and sensitivity to deal with GBV and sexual harassment cases,” said Prof Osode.
Dr Rianna Oelofsen, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Philosophy and Chairperson of Stand As One movement said the policy is “the start of a new culture at Fort Hare, a culture where all staff and students can be safe”.