In a commitment to eradicate Gender Based Violence (GBV), the University of Venda (Univen) in association with Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) successfully hosted the Gender Based Violence Dialogue on 18 August 2017 at University of Venda. The event was attended by almost all institutions of higher learning within Limpopo Province. The main dialogue session was preceded by a student close session in which the panellists were Ms Lindokuhle Zwane (University of Venda), Ms Mulalo Ramakhanya (Vhembe TVET college), Dr Thizwilondi Mudau (University of Venda), Ms Lisa Vetten (HEAIDS), Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia (HEAIDS), Prof Peter Mbati (University of Venda’s Vice Chancellor) and Mr Chief Mabizela, Chief Director Policy Development Support from DHET.

Let’s stop the culture of protecting perpetrators- Mr Mabizela

The Chief Director Policy and Development Support at the Department of Higher Education and Training, Mr Mahlubi Chief Mabizela, said GBV is a persistent problem that affects all races and age groups. “It does not only violate human rights but also leaves deep-seated psychological and emotional scars which may pose a challenge to public health, economic and social development. It destroys, not only the individuals, but families as well. It is a serious problem in all communities in the country and the educational institutions are not immune,” he added.

Mr Mabizela said that the dialogues must provide a platform for sharing information, interrogate complex issues that will allow them to understand the root cause of gender-based and sexual violence, rather than to take these at face value. “We must confront this scourge with the aim to stop it.” He advised the SRC to step up and fight for the safety and security of female students and that of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community. “The role of student leadership is to ensure student safety, security and caring,” he added.

“Each student formation must have a policy and a strategy to stop gender-based and sexual violence. Let us be honest with ourselves and stop the culture of protecting perpetrators. We must avoid finger-pointing over issues of rape, sexual harassment and gender-based violence.” He further said: “Our institutions need to ensure that their policies adequately address the needs of survivors of sexual offences. Reporting of sexual offences needs to be taken seriously such that any individual thinking of committing such a heinous crime should know what awaits them in terms of punishment.”

“We have to strengthen collaborations with other government departments, and agents, such as, the Departments of Social Development; Justice and Constitutional Development; the South African Police Services; and the National Prosecuting Authority. It is through partnerships that we will manage to make a huge difference in our system. We believe that collaborations between campus
security and the SAPS in crime prevention initiatives and in responding to sexual offences must be strengthened,” he concluded.

Prof Mbati officially launched the ‘Save a Girl’ Campaign

The Vice Chancellor and Principal, Prof Peter Mbati, said government, civil society, men and women from all walks of life should embrace each other to defeat the scourge of violence against women and girls in South Africa. “Let’s stop gender based violence and create an enabling environment for the girl child and women,” Prof Mbati added.

“Many of our students and staff members reside in the community and their safety and protection is paramount. The responsibility is on us as community members to intervene and find an immediate, long lasting solutions to the scourge of gender based violence.”

Prof Mbati also launched the ‘Save a Girl’ Campaign. The campaign will create an awareness for GBV. “This launch will remind everyone of our responsibility to be our sisters’ keepers. The University believes that we can save a person’s life by blowing a whistle to alert our neighbours of impending danger,” Prof Mbati said.
“We need states to respect, promote, protect and fulfil the human rights of women and girls. This requires political will and steadfast commitment at all levels to stem the scourge of maiming, raping and killing women and girls in our communities. Law enforcement mechanism and institutions need to be strengthened in order to rid our country of violence against women and girls.”

Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia encouraged the students to educate the communities about GBV

“Prevention is better that cure”. These were the words uttered by the Director of HEAIDS, Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia. He said this has become an epidemic in our country and 150 girls are raped every day in South Africa. “Please go and report if your rights are being violated. Educate the communities about GBV because as academics, you understand it better,” he added.

He said one of the most common forms of GBV in the higher education sector is the issue of sexual harassment of staff and students at universities and colleges.
He said that the reason for hosting GBV dialogues at higher education institutions across the country is to hear first-hand experiences from students and staff working in the sector and gain more insight into the kind of support that is needed to make the universities and colleges safer places.

We must work together to eliminate GBV- Ms Muvhulawa Booi

The Acting Campus Manager of Vhembe TVET College, Ms Muvhulawa Booi, said the dialogue promotes community advocacy around GBV and encourages students to collectively discuss their concerns, exchange ideas, and develop key messages that promotes safe, healthy, and productive life choices for families and communities. “This violence mostly ends in death and disability. The long-term emotional and health costs to victims are well recognised, while the cost to family, community and country is also slowly drawing greater recognition,” she said. “We host outreach programmes to challenge GBV. We are working so hard to understand the daily lives of our students and to eliminate GBV. We must work together to eliminate it.”

We will not tolerate students who abuse each other- Mr Shikwambana

The Student Representative Council (SRC) President, Mr Mandla Shikwambana, admitted that the University is currently experiencing GBV and the students are abusing each other. “We will not tolerate students who abuse each other. Some lecturers are forcing students to have sex with them in exchange of marks. Report any violence that you come across. The police must help us to combat this kind of violence,” he added.

During the dialogue, the students said that the University must provide off-campus transport for the students. They further said that there should be more peer educators to assist first entering students during registration, because they are vulnerable.

Prof Mutshaeni was delighted with the attendance

The Director of Centre for Higher Education Teaching and Learning (CHETL), Prof Nancy Mutshaeni, acknowledged the attendees who made the event a success.

Students came from different spheres to grace the event

From L-R: Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, Mr Mahlubi Chief Mabizela, Criselda Kananda-Dudumashe, Prof Peter Mbati, Mr Mandla Shikwambana and Prof Nancy Mutshaeni pose for a group photo after the event.

Issued by:
Department of Communications & Marketing
University of Venda
Tel.: (015) 962 8525
Date: 25 August 2017

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