Makerere in partnership with national and global stakeholders hosted a Stocktaking Dialogue on Sexual Harassment and Response at the University on Friday 10th December 2021. The event marked the last of 16 days of activism against Gender-based Violence held from 25th November to 10th December 2021.
The dialogue, which coincided with International Human Rights Day served as an opportunity to call upon all actors to uphold the rights of all, especially by protecting the rights of women and girls. As such, the event was held under the global theme set by the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign: “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!”
True to day’s theme participants, the majority of who were students, painted the Food Science and Technology Conference Hall orange. Addressing the congregation, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe kicked off his remarks by stating, “It is up to us to take the lead and stamp Gender-based Violence especially sexual harassment out of Makerere for good.”
Prof. Nawangwe in a special way thanked UN Women for the support rendered to the University in the struggle to end sexual harassment. He applauded this support as strategic, noting that Makerere’s diverse composition makes it a good launchpad to reach the rest of the country.
“Makerere is a small Uganda in one place; these students come from every village in Uganda. Therefore, if they go back transformed, they can change the situation in our country. So it is very important that we work with our students to actually transform these practices in the country” explained the Vice-Chancellor.
He thanked the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate (GMD) led by Dr. Euzobia Baine Mugisha for proactively reaching out to staff and students, noting that the campaigns ought to continue until the vice is completely stamped out of Makerere.
Turning to the Student Leadership, the Vice-Chancellor noted that Management had worked with previous Guild Cabinets to place posters on all notice boards of the University with the stern warning ‘Sexual harassment is not tolerated. “I want to urge the Students’ Guild, let us do that programme again. Makerere is Zero-tolerant to Sexual Harassment.”
The Vice-Chancellor thanked the Champions against sexual harassment, the majority being male, for taking a stand against the vice. This male majority, he opined, is an indicator that the institution is on the right course.
“Let Makerere be that example that the whole country looks up to. When we started this campaign, people were saying you are going to make the public think all is not well at Makerere but I am happy we were vindicated when Parliament said, ‘Let everybody emulate Makerere’” added Prof. Nawangwe.
He expressed happiness that the Director GMD, Dr. Baine Mugisha, and her team were now taking the campaign against sexual harassment to other institutions such as Gulu University. He, therefore, vowed to help rally fellow Vice-Chancellors to join in stamping out the vice.
Prof. Nawangwe concluded by challenging fellow men in the physical and virtual audience to take the stand against the vice. “Are you going to stand up and make sure that together we stamp out sexual harassment and any other form of gender-based violence out of Makerere?”
Prior to delivering her remarks, the Acting Country Representative, UN Women Uganda Ms. Adekemi Ndieli picked up the challenge from where Prof. Nawangwe had left off, asking everyone in the room to rise up and solemnly vow to uphold the Makerere University Policy and Regulations Against Sexual Harassment 2018 by repeating after her;
“I …. commit and reaffirm my zero-tolerance to sexual harassment, and I commit to creating an environment that respects and protects the rights of all members of the University Community so help me God.”
The gesture, she said, was a way of guaranteeing that whoever took part in the dialogue would leave the room energized and committed to ensuring that they would not be perpetrators of sexual harassment but would instead attack any form of it they witness.
Ms. Ndieli took note of the progress made by Makerere University in establishing and implementing the sexual harassment policy, saying the move would protect against potential abuses of power and conflict of interest.
“We also applaud the increased support and training of students and strengthening mechanisms of investigation which provide for students and staff to anonymously report sexual misconduct” she complimented.
Turning to men and boys in the room, Ms. Ndieli said, “We want you to be a champion against sexual harassment and abuse. We want you to champion the equal rights of women and girls on this campus. We want you to challenge gender stereotypes on this campus.”
She concluded by recommending the following as ways of changing the unacceptable behavior that exists within our learning, working, and living environment.
Recognize that there is no silver bullet to preventing sexual violence and misconduct. We must examine the iniquities that are drivers of unacceptable behaviour and challenge and dismantle sexisms.
Make it clear that preventing sexual misconduct and harassment is not an option. We must all work together to stamp out the vice by ensuring safety, wellbeing, and equity for our staff and students.
Provide timely, compassionate, and confidential response services to survivors including witnesses. Provision of mental health support and psychosocial support is equally important.
“I am really happy that the Vice-Chancellor is here today, we respect you, we applaud you for leading this process and we know that it is going to work effectively” concluded Ms. Ndieli.
The remarks by the Vice-Chancellor and UN Women Country Representative were preceded by a keynote address by the Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS), Prof. Josephine Ahikire, and a presentation by the Director GMD.
While Prof. Ahikire emphasized the need to understand and address the underlying drivers of Gender-based Violence, Dr. Baine Mugisha shared the steps taken by Makerere University to address sexual harassment. Steps included the formulation of the Vice Chancellor’s Roster of 100, which investigates reports of sexual harassment, and the Two4One campaign, which taps into students’ talents as an agency for addressing the challenge of sexual harassment among others.
As a demonstration of this agency, Happy Sami, a finalist from the 2020 Two4One Concert to End Sexual Harassment put up a musical performance dubbed “No More Sexual Harassment”.