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Change the world

30/08/2021

The scourge of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) continues to plague our society, with mostly women, children, and individuals from the LGBTIQA+ communities, worst affected.

With GBVF being a societal challenge, and with Nelson Mandela University’s resolve to be in the service of society through meaningful engagement with the communities in which it is situated, a forum has been established with various GBVF-focused organisations in response to this societal challenge.

The HIV-Aids and the Transformation units within Mandela University’s Engagement and Transformation Portfolio, have joined a number of local GBVF-focused organisations in a forum, sharing experiences and knowledge, and collaborating to produce materials and programmes to raise awareness and bring about change in this area.

The Forum is led by representatives of each of these units, as well as Karen Kemp of Yethu Safe House in West End, and Sibonelo Ncanana-Trower, of OUT in Central, Gqeberha. Other organisations within the Forum include Doxa Family Care, Phila Ndoda Movement, Yokhuselo Safe Haven, Phaphamani Rape Crisis Centre, and I Protect Me.

During August, known nationally as Women’s Month, the University is supporting member organisations’ programmes in Gqeberha and George, with a series of events aimed at raising awareness and bolstering efforts to curb the scourge of GBVF.

The objective of these collective events is to raise awareness on what constitutes GBV; empower those affected or prone to attacks with physical protection techniques; celebrate women and the diversity of genders and sharing stories of those who survived such violations. In addition, member organisations are aiming to collect demographical data from the participating sites with the ultimate objective to influence national policy.

“This period has undoubtedly been among the toughest that staff and students, internally, and communities, externally, have gone through as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown conditions,” says Dr Ruby-Ann Levendal, the University’s Director: Transformation.

“The lockdown also presented particular challenges in the fight against GBV nationally as evidenced by the rise in the number of reported cases countrywide.”

The University and community partners will be going out into communities across Gqeberha and Kariega, engaging schools (teachers and pupils), churches and nongovernmental organisations.

For the rest of the month,

Mandela University, as an engaged institution with renewed commitment to actively fighting the scourge of GBV on its campuses, continues the work towards ensuring a safer environment for all within the gender spectrum

awareness raising activities will be carried out at places, including Machiu Primary in Cleary Park, Bethvale Primary in Bloemendal and Alfonzo Arries Primary in Booysen Park.

The elderly, who are also prone to incidents of GBV violations, will be addressed at churches in Jacksonville and Kariega, with a segment for young women (aged 1624) in Kleinskool.

Higher education institutions, as microcosms of society, are also not immune to the scourge.

The province is still reeling from the gruesome murder of a University of Fort Hare final year law student, Nosicelo Mtebeni, allegedly by her boyfriend.

Mandela University, which previously had challenges with the capacity to effectively and speedily deal with GBV cases, has seen a marked improvement in the manner in which it deals with such cases.

Internally, the University’s Transformation office, Emthonjeni Student Wellness and Student Health units, among others, have put in place a number of initiatives and critical processes aimed at enhancing the reporting and support measures.

These include an online reporting system, available on the staff and student portals, set up to ensure reported incidents are dealt with in line with the applicable policy; and various awareness and support initiatives such as psychosocial support to GBV complainants as well as perpetrators — the latter as part of the corrective justice stance of the University.

The Legal Services office continues to deal with all formal cases relating to gender and sexual based violence, with the applicable sanctions meted out to all found guilty of these transgressions.

“Mandela University, as an engaged institution with renewed commitment to actively fighting the scourge of GBV on its campuses, continues the work towards ensuring a safer environment for all within the gender spectrum,” says Dr Levendal.

“We are encouraged by the strides made to date towards effectively and efficiently dealing with reported GBV cases and call on the continued collaboration between the various partners to not only bring perpetrators to book, but to also continue our collective efforts to change attitudes and behaviours that do not support the principles of human dignity, equality and social justice, as reflected in our country’s constitution.”

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 27 August 2021.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777
Zandile.Mbabela@mandela.ac.za