Activists met to discuss ways to address gender-based violence in institutions of higher learning.

University students raised their concerns about the prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV) on several campuses at the higher education department’s youth health and awareness roundtable on August 22, 2022.

Students fill in the GBV risk assessment survey at Constitutional Hill in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Photo: Mpho Hlakudi 

The event which took place at Constitutional Hill in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, under the theme: ‘Gender equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future’. Panelists discussed inclusive solutions to GBV such as improving the basic education curriculum to teach children about consent and different kinds of abuse.

Wits Gender Equity Office intern, Lindelwa Mhlakaza (25), shared her story of being raped by a close friend in 2017, during her first year of study while staying off-campus. She said she was confused at how the perpetrator laughed at her after her assault. Mhlakaza tried to forget about the assault and focus on her BA psychology assignment. However, after accidentally printing the wrong paper, she emotionally broke down in the Wartenweiler Library on Main Campus.

Tebogo Moselane, a student at Waterberg College, said that the police failed her by delaying investigations into her still unsolved, 2016 rape case. The latest statistics from the South African Police Service released on August 19, 2022 reveal that at least 9 500 rape cases were reported to the police from April to June 2022 . However, the data show that less than 6% of sexual offences are successfully convicted.

Addressing the event virtually, the minister of higher education and training, Blade Nzimande, encouraged men to be frontline activists in confronting the GBV pandemic. Nzimande emphasised that both men and women must unite to fight for gender equality as GBV is a social problem that affects everyone. He explained that “toxic masculinity”, which is discrimination, subjugation or violence towards women is at the heart of the problem.

Ramneek Ahluwalia, CEO of Higher Health, a national student health and wellness agency, encouraged students to join the Higher Health civic peer education curriculum and challenge toxic masculinity as one of the sources of GBV. “Education is the only biggest empowerment solution to the problem, and we have to be the change agents to educate others, peer to peer,” he said.

“Part of men playing a role in ending gender-based violence involves them unlearning the harmful norms of masculinity that they are socialized into, and learn healthier ways of relating to women and each other,” said Gorata Chengeta, a Wits university sexual violence researcher and PhD student.

Students who attended the event told Wits Vuvuzela that the event was just another ‘talk shop’ that failed to confront the root causes of GBV, while some hailed it as a significant milestone in the fight against GBV.

FEATURED IMAGE:  ‘Each one teach one’, student peer educators attend the roundtable at Constitutional Hill in Braamfontein. Photo: Mpho Hlakudi