Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training engages the HEAIDS Technical Task Team on SGBV

The HEAIDS Technical Task Team on Sexual and Gender Based Volence (SGBV) is continuing its work towards  developing a draft SGBV policy and strategy framework for Higher Education to help shape a unified response to Sexual and Gender based violence for all universities and TVET colleges in South Africa. The Technical Task Team met today with the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Mduduzi Manana to unveil the road map  to be employed to roll-out new policies and measures in order to improve safety of university and college students and staff. The Policy and Strategy Framework that is scheduled to be unveiled in August 2017 is aimed at enabling institutions to create an environment where staff and students can work and study without exposure to sexual harassment, sexual assault and intimate partner violence and that will be supported by a rapid and appropriate response that will be effective in responding to incidences of sexual violence.

Many – but not all – of the 76 higher education institutions, which work with two million students and staff across some 420 campuses, have policies and programmes to reduce and deal with SGBV. Reports of incidents and institutional, legal and health-related responses indicate inconsistent application of policies and availability of services. Inadequate protection and assistance for rape survivors and ineffective prosecution of perpetrators are frequently a concern, and contribute to compounding the harm caused by sexual assaults in the first place.

The proposed Sexual and Gender Based Violence Policy and Strategy Framework for Higher Education seeks to be a holistic intervention that will focus on education, enforcement, engagement, and evaluation to ensure that change is achieved. Briefing the Deputy Minister, Ms Sianne Abrahams, the chairperson of Strategic Programmes sub-committee of the Technical Task team for ,  said the sub-committee is exploring short to medium term strategies . This will include, amongst others,  the Deputy Minister’s dialogue series across institutions in the coming months, commencing with a Dialogue at the University of Zululand later in February.  It is intended that in the immediate short term an audit will be conducted at universities and colleges to better understand their context and needs in relation to SGBV policy and programming .

Speaking at the HEAIDS offices today, Deputy Minister Manana acknowledged that the Technical Task Team had a difficult task ahead of them but that he is assured that they are ‘equal to the task’. He reiterated the Department of Higher Education and Training’s commitment to the roll out a comprehensive programme to address sexual and gender-based violence across the higher education and training sector.