UP launches course aimed at curbing gender-based abuse

Posted on March 15, 2019

The University of Pretoria is committed to providing a non-sexist, non-discriminatory working, living and study environment for staff and students; one in which every person will be able to achieve their full potential. UP also acknowledges that sexual harassment is an unacceptable infringement of the core values of integrity, human dignity, privacy, equity and mutual respect, and is a form of unfair discrimination. Mr Pierre Brouard, Deputy Director, Centre for Sexualities AIDS and Gender (CSA&G) and Ms Sarah Matseke, Acting Transformation Manager answer some burning questions about UP’s recently launched gender-based courses which are aimed at curbing abuse.
1. Who is this training aimed at, and where will it take place?
The training is aimed at all staff at UP and the LGBTQI+ community. Student sessions will be conducted through residences, SRC and student wellness committees. The current training sessions are based at the Hatfield Campus because we are using the Enterprises staff training booking system. However, due to the limited spaces available in the Enterprises system, additional sessions are also offered for all campuses and all faculties according to their timing. 
So far we have trained students from House Humanities, #SpeakOutUP student volunteers at Hatfield and Onderstepoort Campuses, and a student wellness committee under the auspices of the Department of Student Affairs. We have trained staff from the Security Services and Residence Affairs from all campuses. 
2. How important is this training for staff members?
This training is extremely important! In the wake of the global #MeToo movement, awareness of high levels of sexual harassment has grown. South Africa too has seen a focus on this with high profile stories of harassment, as well as reports of daily indignities suffered mostly by women in multiple, often ordinary, contexts. In the context of a generalised HIV epidemic, high levels of gender-based violence (GBV) and the normalisation of problematic forms of masculinity, workshops on sexual harassment offer spaces to discuss gender power and the role of institutions to address it more systematically. Awareness campaigns and training sessions help to create work and study places which are fair and free from undignified and exploitative practices. 
With the knowledge of what defines GBV, the associated and available policies and processes within UP – how to report; steps on how a complaint is assessed and evaluated against the different versions of the complainant and the accused; and the different redress mechanisms available from mediation to disciplinary enquiries – are explained. 
The first part of the training is offered by the CSA&G. It explores the gender stereotypes and power relations which underpin sexual harassment, explores ways in which those who experience sexual harassment may assert themselves and claim their dignity, and suggests ways in which we all have a role to play as bystanders when we observe harassment or gender-insensitive talk and actions. It also deals with engaging men in preventing sexual harassment, noting that same-sex harassment and harassment by women in positions of power is also possible.  
The second part of the training is offered by the Transformation Office. It links the above sexual stereotyping theory to UP’s processes and procedures on GBV management related to reporting, prima facie assessment of cases and the resultant disciplinary measures. 
3. What is the University and Student Health and Wellness hoping to achieve with these gender-based activation programmes?   
• To educate, inform and empower staff and students and alert them to ways of finding social and gender justice in line with our forthcoming Anti-Discrimination Policy;
• To eliminate GBV misunderstandings and the trivialisation of the experiences of those being harassed. 
• To allow employees to share experiences and empower others to report through the knowledge that others have reported; 
• To encourage UP staff to challenge gender stereotyping in their workspaces and eliminate assumptions that keep people silent about GBV;
• Create more awareness for GBV and create a dialogue platform for all people to speak about sexual harassment, and ultimately create a culture of reporting;
• Revive the understanding of the role of #SpeakOutUP campaign;
• To create an institutional environment which is respectful, fair and dignified for all and which meaningfully strives to create a safe space for staff and students.
• Contribute towards the eradication of GBV and the creation of holistically balanced mental wellness for staff. 
4. How can victims who prefer speaking on anonymity best get in touch with you? 
They can contact our offices by email, thereafter schedule an appointment.
Sarah Matseke via [email protected] or 012 420 6797;
Stembiso Magagula via [email protected] or 012 420 2730.
5. How many people have RSVPed for the training?
The training received an overwhelming response from staff. Online registrations are continuing and staff are registering every day. Staff must log into the portal to see how many seats are available. 
On Friday 8 March 2019, the registrations were as follows: 
• 13 March: 5 seats available;
• 05 June: fully booked;
• 01 October: 14 seats available;
• 19 November: 25 seats available. 
6. What else would you like to point out with regards to these training? 
We encourage people to attend and to take them seriously. Gender-based violence, sexual assault, rape and sexual harassment are serious matters which not only affect the lives and wellness of women and girls (and men and boys in some cases) but impact on productivity, a conducive workplace culture and the inherent dignity and equality of all. 
Knowledge and understanding will enable policy success as people begin to interact with the policy and to create a staff community who are not ashamed or fearful to #SpeakOut within or outside UP against GBV. 
UP’s Acting Transformation Manager is a three-time rape and sexual harassment survivor. During these training sessions, she shares her story to encourage others to #SpeakOutUP against GBV. She tells them that if she and other survivors have overcome this ordeal, anybody can. The Transformation Office is there to listen, support and guide them.
- Author Department of University Relations

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