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Sexual Harassment at African Higher Education Institutions

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Abstract

In most African states, joining higher education institutions (HEIs) is, for students, an investment in their own economic progress. Yet, HEIs are sites where sexual harassment and gender-based violence (GBV) occur, increasing the vulnerability of newly enrolled female students and of women in general. A strong gender policy environment, a clear stand by senior management at HEIs, and the empowerment ofmen with respect to gender equity issues are remedies to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being), goal 4 (Quality Education), goal 5 (Gender Equality), and goal 10 (Reduced Inequality).
INTERNATIONAL HIGHER EDUCATION
4Number 94: summer 2018
ulty are more aware of their rights and limits. This is good
news for the region, but it also means a major challenge for
higher education institutions.
Note: While this article was in production, an important
protest at Chilean universities was taking place. Several
university buildings of at least 15 institutions have been oc-
cupied by female student activists, including the Pontifical
Catholic University of Chile. Students are protesting against
gender violence and for establishing protocols to report sex-
ual harassment cases, to achieve a non-sexist education and
to change the curriculum among other demands.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6017/ihe.2018.94.10512
Sexual Harassment at
African Higher Education
Institutions
Christine Dranzoa
Christine Dranzoa is vice-chancellor at Muni University, Arua, and
president of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) in
Uganda. E-mail: cdranzoa@yahoo.com.
In Africa, enrolling in higher education institutions (HEIs)
is an aspiration of many young people and their families
and represents an investment in their own socioeconomic
progress. This is why university graduation ceremonies are
celebrated with great pomp—the ceremonies anticipate sig-
nificant long-term benefits. Higher education institutions
are the power engine of Africa’s progress. Additionally, is-
sues of gender equality and diversity have gained momen-
tum in the twenty-first century as it has become widely ac-
knowledged that balanced economic and social progress is
only possible with these tenets. Most governments in Africa
have adopted and ratified policies such as the UN Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms (1948) and the
African Union Gender Policy (2009), which mandate them
to observe and practice gender equity and empower women
in higher education institutions.
The Vulnerability of Women in Higher Education in
Africa
In Egypt, 99 percent of women experience sexual harass-
ment. In South Africa, three-quarters of women experience
some form of abuse or sexual violence. In 2014 and 2015,
South African police recorded 53,000 rape cases annu-
ally. In the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Rwanda,
many women report sexual violence by intimate partners.
In Uganda, sexual harassment and gender-based violence
against women, including abductions and murder, make
the headlines on a weekly basis. Globally, 35 percent of
women experience physical or sexual violence of all kinds.
Women suffer derogatory comments and unsolicited sexual
advances.
Students enrolling in higher education institutions in
Africa have different backgrounds: some are freshly gradu-
ated from high school, some are mature-age entrants. Over
90 percent of the younger students are from poor families.
Unlike higher education institutions, secondary schools
and most homes are restrictive and heavily regulated when
it comes to relations between the sexes. Traditionally, girls
and boys are socialized differently, which has a negative im-
pact outside of these regulated spaces. Young female stu-
dents entering HEIs are vulnerable, innocent, unexposed,
and naïve, eager to explore their newly discovered freedom,
sometimes ending up with unplanned pregnancies and
dropping out altogether. The rampant, sexual manipulation
of women, girls, and sometimes boys, happens within and
outside the institutions. Most universities in Africa have
gender policies and policies against sexual harassment, but
several factors contribute to sexual harassment and gender-
based violence. University hostels, where disadvantaged
female and male students stay, are often cheap and unreg-
ulated, serving as the first location for sexual harassment
because they attract sexual predators. Other contributing
factors include financial need, the imperative to get good
grades to open doors on a scarce labor market, graduate
unemployment, and peer pressure. Monitoring systems are
often in place, but are weakened by unprofessional admin-
istration. A strong patriarchal tradition, often aggravated by
sheer misogynistic behavior, undermine female staff and
students systematically, contributing to denying them ad-
vancement and ruining their academic careers. Some per-
petrators of gender-based violence are persons of responsi-
bility and influence on the students, such as faculty, course
coordinators, and examination officers. Finally, substance
abuse contributes to a culture that is unconducive to respect
In Egypt, 99 percent of women experi-
ence sexual harassment. In South Afri-
ca, three-quarters of women experience
some form of abuse or sexual violence.
INTERNATIONAL HIGHER EDUCATION 5
between the sexes.
Strategic Advancement of Gender Equity and Equality
Strategic advancement toward gender equality and a vio-
lence-free society should include sensitizing and empower-
ing men and boys on gender issues. Dedicated professional
counselors, psychologists, deans of students, and wardens
should work in an organized and structured manner with
student peers, executive management, and faculties to of-
fer counseling, sensitization, and open discussions on what
triggers sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
Coordinating both academic and extracurricular activities
such as nature clubs, sports, and games gives opportuni-
ties for feedback and keeps young people busy and healthy.
Student counselling on social issues, responsible residen-
tial life at universities, prevention against diseases such
as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis combined with a strict institu-
tional culture and gender policy are practical ways to build
inclusive, respectful, and diverse academic communities.
Consistently communicating, advising, and sensitizing
students is crucial. Reversing a nefarious culture requires
bold institutional leadership dealing decisively with cases
of sexual misconduct, coupled with a rigorous selection of
professional staff.
Conclusion
Sexual harassment and gender-based violence in higher
education are signs of institutional failure. Indeed, victims
may see their academic careers stunted or destroyed. The
vicious cycle of poverty and moral decadence is perpetuat-
ed. Endemic gender-based violence and sexual harassment
undermine the attainment of the Sustainable Development
Goals in the African context.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6017/ihe.2018.94.10513
The #MeToo Movement as a
Global Learning Moment
Joanna Regulska
Joanna Regulska is professor of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies
and vice-provost and associate chancellor, Global Affairs, University of
California, Davis, US. E-mail: jregulska@ucdavis.edu.
Most women around the world have experienced sexual
harassment, assault, and violence, or have at times
been pushed into a zone where they knew it did not feel
right. They have experienced the “same” moment, and yet
for each of them it has been a different moment. For some
it was an “aha” moment; for some the pain, emotional
and physical, may have been unbearable, lasting for days,
months, or years. For others still, this moment had to be
deeply buried. It could not be spoken about because of its
cultural and political context; it was identifiable but stripped
of the power that comes from naming. This moment of ar-
ticulation and recognition may be shaped by women’s age,
sexual orientation, trans status, race, ethnicity, socioeco-
nomic position, religion, by broader cultural practices, and
by a great many other formative experiences, present and
past.
This essay places the #MeToo movement within the
context of global learning. Given the global nature of sexual
harassment, assault, and violence against women, but also
given the common dismissal of such women’s experiences,
what responsibilities do we have as international educators?
How should we place this particular moment within a larg-
er and broader effort in order to provide our students with
global and international understanding? How can we har-
ness this global movement in ways that will advance inter-
cultural and intracultural awareness? How can we engage
our students, faculty, and staff members in exploring these
spaces of lived experiences that are so full of emotions, fear,
and pain, but at the same time are embedded within diverse
cultural practices in ways that may well give rise to misun-
derstandings?
The Complexities of the Moment
This is a very powerful and yet a very complicated moment.
It is powerful because it resonates with women around the
world and therefore presents an opportunity to have con-
versations in different parts of the world and with people
representing different cultural experiences and perspec-
tives: this is an opportunity for global learning at home and
abroad. As I travel to different countries, I also hear denial,
dismissal, and open criticism. #MeToo does not resonate
with everyone; for many, it is seen as a matter of a privilege
that women living under extreme poverty or in war-torn
countries cannot afford.
This is an exciting moment because women are defin-
ing what harassment, violence, and assault mean for them.
How have these lived experiences affected their own under-
standings of their bodies or of their positions within the
larger society? But it is also a complicated moment because
it requires from us a recognition that it is formed by lo-
cal cultural context, political climate, powerful institutions,
class, racial and ethnic privileges, heteronormativity, and
many other pressures, exercised by networks of power and
domination.
Number 94: summer 2018
... Results revealed that one in four women would experience attempted or completed rape while attending university. In Sub-Sahara endemic gender-based violence and sexual violence in universities has been cited as undermining the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals in the African context (Dranzoa, 2018). A study conducted in Ethopia at Jimma Universitiy by Mamaru, Getachew & Yasmin (2015) using a sample size of 385 female students highlighted that there was high prevalence of violence. ...
Article
Full-text available
A university is seen as a safe haven for students to engage in meaningful learning and finding their intellectual creativity however, to some, the university has become a den for the infringement of the rights of the female students through sexual violence. Using face to face interviews with senior female students the study shows that there still exists a number of causal factors leading to sexual violence and that there was dearth of awareness and training programs to educate the students on sexual violence while promoting their human rights. Naming and shaming the perpetrator while protecting the victim was recommended. Ongoing holistic interventions that focus in patriarchal beliefs, culture, tradition and sexual violence should be implemented including gender policies.
... However, substantial proportions of female students in institutions of higher education in Ethiopia have been subjected to sexual violence and its consequences due to different reasons [5][6][7]. Some of these reasons include lack of family control, the need to explore their newly discovered freedom, presence of pimp and pubs surrounding the campus, sexual experimentation, peer pressure, weak institutional administration, lack of comprehensive knowledge on sexual and reproductive health problems, substance use and financial insecurity [8][9][10]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background Sexual violence is a profound social and public health problem in Ethiopia. Female students in institutions of higher education are highly vulnerable to sexual violence. Different studies conducted on sexual violence at higher education institutions lack consistency and inclusiveness. Thus, this systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted to estimate the lifetime and twelve-month prevalence, and predictors of sexual violence among female students in institutions of higher education in Ethiopia. Methods This study used a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies conducted from January 1, 2000, to June 1, 2020, in Ethiopia. This review followed Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Electronic databases including PubMed, Cochrane Library, Hinari, Google Scholar, CINAHL, and Global Health were searched using relevant search terms. Meta-analysis was performed using STATA 14 software. The I ² statistics and Egger’s test were used to assess heterogeneity and publication bias, respectively. Forest plots were used to present the prevalence and odds ratio (OR) with a 95% confidence interval (CI). Results This systematic review and meta-analysis included 10 studies, 5790 study participants. The pooled lifetime and twelve-month prevalence of sexual violence among female students in Ethiopia was 49.4% (95%CI: 37.87, 60.96) and 36.02% (95%CI: 26.42, 45.62) respectively. Rural residence (OR = 2.13;95%CI: 1.33, 3.42), alcohol drinking (OR = 2.03; 95%CI: 1.44, 2.87), and ever had a boyfriend (OR = 2.07; 95%CI: 1.32, 3.62) were factors associated with sexual violence. Conclusions The lifetime prevalence of sexual violence among female students in institutions of higher education in Ethiopia was high. Place of residence, alcohol drinking, and ever had a boyfriend were statistically significant factors of sexual violence. Life skill training and law enforcement are needed to control alcohol consumption. Additionally, more focused interventions should be done in rural settings. Registration This systematic review has been registered in the International Prospective Registry of Systematic Review (PROSPERO) with a specific registration number CRD42020155894.
... The change is positive but the way is still long. Similarly, the MeToo movement has socially opened the sexual discourse but it is done more from the abusive aspect of sexuality (Dranzoa, 2018;Regulska, 2018). ...
Article
This article focuses on first-year black female students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal who were exposed to and experienced sexual violence. The aim of the study was, broadly, to determine how female students experience and negotiate gender, sexuality and violence in campus residences. Semi-structured individual interviews were utilised to generate data. The findings show that violence was shaped by gender and power dynamics. These students were first years, and predominantly from poor backgrounds, and therefore particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and unequal relationships. Alcohol, substance abuse and dangerous masculinised spaces further exacerbated their vulnerability. Poverty, scarce resources and gender intersect to produce vulnerability and constrained forms of their agency that translate into transactional relationships. The findings also suggest that being first year female students have implications for how these young women negotiated their newfound freedom away from the parental gaze. The study highlights the ways in which these first-year students are aware that sexual violence is prevalent on campus particularly in certain spaces such as Dark City and residence rooms. Members of the SRC and DSRA are cited as likely perpetrators of sexually predatory behaviours. We therefore propose that the Gender Based Violence Policy at UKZN should be introduced to first year students by way of induction courses, and that these courses should also include gender and sexuality education to help ensure that awareness around gender violence permeates the lives of all students.
Chapter
The chapter deals with the global issue of advancing women's role in higher education and research (HE&R) as a mechanism for reaching the Sustainable Development Goal 5 – gender equality. Gender analysis method is employed to identify historical and current differences between women and men relative to their participation in HE&R and access to decision-making and resources therein. The focus is on the global challenge of gender disparities, including horizontal and vertical segregation, the androcentric academic culture, and the gender pay gap. The authors warn of possible contamination of AI with human gender biases, which can be detrimental to academic hiring and assessment procedures. Summarizing gender-equality policies and practices available worldwide, the authors give recommendations on women's empowerment in HE&R on the global, national, and organizational levels.
Article
Despite existing national and institutional policies and interventions on gender-based violence (GBV), acts of GBV endure at universities in South Africa. Through narrative research inquiry, this focus piece reports on the experiences and perspectives of GBV of a first-year student at a university in South Africa. The findings presented reveal how she experienced feelings of vulnerability, silenced by ignorance, fear and powerlessness in a university residential space. She voices her disappointment regarding the reporting of the GBV incident, the disciplinary process, and the outcome thereof. Retrospectively, ‘Zinzi’ provides possible recommendations from the ground up. This paper explores the complicated policy conversation of a young women-led initiative to find real solutions to real problems for young women within risky institutional spaces characterised by acts of GBV. For young women like ‘Zinzi’, experiencing GBV first-hand as they entered the university space and voicing it can be recognised as a bold and valued contribution to fostering dialogue that can potentially lead to positive change. Only with young women-led policymaking can we expect institutions to give victims/survivors an intersectional safe space where women and men are unapologetic of who they are, fearless, and not angered by policies and practices meant to protect them – a space that transposes their powerlessness.
Chapter
The chapter deals with the global issue of advancing women's role in higher education and research (HE&R) as a mechanism for reaching the Sustainable Development Goal 5 – gender equality. Gender analysis method is employed to identify historical and current differences between women and men relative to their participation in HE&R and access to decision-making and resources therein. The focus is on the global challenge of gender disparities, including horizontal and vertical segregation, the androcentric academic culture, and the gender pay gap. The authors warn of possible contamination of AI with human gender biases, which can be detrimental to academic hiring and assessment procedures. Summarizing gender-equality policies and practices available worldwide, the authors give recommendations on women's empowerment in HE&R on the global, national, and organizational levels.
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