GBV interventions at higher learning institutions yields positive results

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Anti-gender-based violence interventions have yielded positive results at higher learning institutions with over 700 000 students currently linked to health, wellness and psychosocial support and care services.

This has been made possible through HIGHER HEALTH’s toll-free helpline 24/7 toll-free crisis helpline 0800 36 36 36.

This was highlighted by Higher Education, Science and Innovation Deputy Minister, Buti Manamela, during a Research Indaba on gender-based violence (GBV) held at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology at the Bellville Campus in Cape Town.

Delivering the keynote address, Manamela said that from 2022, most of the 700 000 students had taken the HIGHER HEALTH self-administered risk assessments that point to conditions that place some of them in greater danger of GBV, mental ill-health and other challenges that afflict young people – importantly, allowing for mitigating actions.

He said 10 000 HIGHER HEALTH peer educators, including 15 students per campus, volunteer to help fellow students to be protected from HIV, GBV and other medical and social challenges.

“This model of participatory pedagogy enables and empowers educated young South Africans in the PSET [post school education and training] system to reach 10 out of school, unemployed young people as well as community members.

“In 2022 alone, 8 700 frontline staff were capacitated to deal with GBV on campuses [and] together with HIGHER HEALTH, we have developed a user-friendly GBV self-risk assessment tool that can help to open doors to professional care for vulnerable students.

“First-year students especially, are encouraged to access the self-risk assessment through HIGHER HEALTH’s extra-mural curriculum, dialogues and interventions, and use it as a checklist to identify risk factors and personal behaviours which may make them more vulnerable to the GBV epidemic.

“From an initial 100, we now have more than 6 200 individuals who reported incidents of gender-based harassment, intimate partner violence and GBV across our campuses which is a positive sign and bodes well for breaking the silence,” Manamela said on Wednesday.

As part of government’s response to fight the scourge, Manamela said the department, together with its entity HIGHER HEALTH, has over the years made a number of policy, institutional and programmatic interventions, all of which are intended to create a safe and secure environment for students and staff in the PSET sector.

As part of policy interventions, the department launched a Policy Framework to address GBV in the PSET and related Training sectors in 2020.

The GBV Policy Framework hinges on three strategic goals, including:

  • Creating an enabling environment through the development of implementation guidelines, protocols, minimum standards including capacity development for GBV programming in PSET Institutions;
  • Prevention and awareness through promoting the safety of students and staff by putting in place comprehensive awareness and prevention programmes intended to raise awareness of policies and services addressing GBV; and
  • Support and assistance through putting in place supportive and reparative procedures for complainants/survivors.


Guidelines to manage sexual, gender-related misconduct

In support of students, the department has also developed guidelines and protocols to manage sexual and gender-related misconduct - which sets out the procedures for reporting and handling complaints, issues of anonymity and confidentiality, as well as to guide implementation and compliance at institutions.

The guidelines also present supportive and protective measures that the institutional responsible office must implement from the moment a complaint is received, and guide on informal and formal procedures available to the complainant.

“Rape and sexual assault - which guides the institution through the steps required to offer support to victims of rape and sexual assault; and Code of Ethics - details what the responsibilities of student leaders and staff are, and how to ensure that contractors and third parties adhere to the GBV guidelines, campus safety, protection on outreach/field visits, whistleblowing, staff student relationships, and the drugs and alcohol policy.”

The five protocols are in development stage and will be released later this year, these include campus safety and security minimum standards; safety in private accommodation; safety in residences; staff-student relationships; and statement of complaint.

“As it relates to more programmatic interventions, we are implementing various programmes and support structures for students and frontline staff at institutions of higher learning. The programmes are offered on 420 campuses across South Africa – in urban and rural areas,” Manamela said. –