On Thursday 29th August 2019, the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe represented by the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Prof. William Bazeyo unveiled members of the Vice Chancellor’s Standing Roster of 100; launched the amended Policy and Regulations against Sexual Harassment; and the Safer Universities Project.
The aforementioned strategies re-affirm Makerere University’s commitment to fight against sexual harassment.
Organized by the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate in partnership with European Union Spotlight Initiative, Government of Sweden and UN Women, the highly colorful ceremony graced by Dr. Maxime Houinato, UN Women Country Representative to Uganda, Ms. Susan Oregede, the Programme Specialist EVAWG, members of Makerere University management, members of the Vice Chancellor’s Standing Roster of 100 and media.
The Vice Chancellor’s Standing Roster of 100 to investigate sexual harassment
In line with section 18 part (a) of Makerere University Policy and Regulations against sexual harassment 2006 (as amended), the Vice Chancellor on 1st August 2019, appointed 100 members of the Vice Chancellor’s Standing Roster to investigate sexual harassment.
According to Makerere University Policy and Regulations against Sexual Harassment, the Vice Chancellor’s Roster of 100 includes well selected persons of integrity from which ad hoc committees will be drawn to investigate specific reported complaints of sexual harassment. The Roster represents all categories of groups in the University community that is; academic, administrative and support staff, students (undergraduate and postgraduate) as well as all hierarchical ranks within those categories.
The Safer Universities Project
The Safer Universities Project is a joint effort of Makerere University and Gulu University to eliminate all forms of sexual harassment and violence against women and girls by promoting favorable social norms, attitude and behavior and strengthening sexual harassment reporting mechanisms. The project is also geared towards improving Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) at community and individual level and ensure that perpetrators are held countable.
coordinated by Makerere University Gender Mainstreaming Directorate, the Safer Universities Project is expected to increase the use of available, accessible and quality essential referral services by women and girls who experience violence.
The revised Makerere University Policy and Regulations against Sexual Harassment
On 2nd March 2018, the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe appointed a five-member committee headed by Prof. Sylvia Tamale to investigate the causes of the increasing cases of sexual harassment, review the Policy and Regulations against Sexual Harassment and make recommendations.
Consisting of Dr. Betty Ezati, Dr. Consolata Kabonesa, Dr. Christopher Mbazira and Dr. Aaron Mushengyezi and Gender Mainstreaming Directorate, the Committee cited gaps and inadequacies that necessitated the policy to be reviewed and amended.
According to the amended Policy, sexual harassment is prohibited for both on-campus and off-campus university setting against, between or among; students, academic, administrative and support staff, contractors, partners, visitors and researchers.
The Policy clearly states the penalties to a person found guilty of sexual harassment. The penalties include; written warnings, counselling, restraining order, apology to the aggrieved party, fines up to two years’ salary, suspension, demotion, dismissal and criminal investigation and prosecution. These penalties will be subjected to a person depending on the gravity of the offence. The revised policy also disbanded the previous Unit based anti sexual harassment committees and established the Vice Chancellor’s Standing Roster of 100 members. It also gives the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate and the Directorate of Legal Affairs the responsibility to monitor compliance of decisions made in respect of all lodged complaints.
Addressing participants and media on Thursday 29th August 2019, Prof. Bazeyo recognized the importance of the Safer Universities Project as a drive to excavate issues that affect women and girls at universities. “We need to uproot all the cells that cause violence, abuse and sexual harassment in our universities,” he said.
According to Prof. Bazeyo, the amended policy will guide Makerere University on how to handle sexual harassment matters. He cautioned staff and students against using the issue of dress code as an excuse by the perpetrators of sexual harassment behavior when he said, “You cannot convince me that you were tempted by someone’s dress code if you are not a perpetrator. Someone’s actions especially when it comes to sexual desires are within the heart not the environment.”
Prof. Bazeyo congratulated members of the Vice Chancellor’s Standing Roster of 100 upon their appointment and urged them to do their work diligently. Drawing from the several reports on sexual harassment that have been reported, Prof. Bazeyo cautioned the members to work tirelessly to ensure that sexual harassment vice is eliminated from Makerere University.
The UN Women Country Representative to Uganda Dr. MaximeHouinato applauded Makerere University leadership for taking a bold step to fight against sexual harassment and all other forms of abuse and violence against women. According Dr. Maxime, the question of violence against women and why focus on women can be well answered and articulated while looking at the wider missing gap between women and men in the country’s economic development.
“Women still face wider income gaps, poor representation in politics and there are few opportunities that target women. More than 25% of women report having been victims of violence,” he said.
Dr. Maxime said that for a country to develop human capital, it should look at the integrity of women. He spotted impunity as the main cause of violence against women when he said, “impunity is what entertains violence. When people have too much ego and think they are untouchable the end result is violence and all forms of abuse”
On behalf of students, the Makerere University Guild President H.E Julius Kateregga pledged to fully support institutions that are working tirelessly to ensure that Makerere University is a free space for female students, with zero tolerance to sexual harassment.
Training of the Vice Chancellor’s Standing Roster of 100 to investigate sexual harassment
The 100 members of the Vice Chancellor’s Standing Rosters were trained and equipped with knowledge and skills to investigate sexual harassment cases. The two days training (28th-29th August) was organized by Makerere University Gender Mainstreaming Directorate in partnership with European Union’s Spotlight Initiative, Government of Sweden and UN Women, Uganda.
During the training, participants shared knowledge and experience on violence against women and girls and discussed the root causes, drivers and consequences. In an interactive session with Prof. Sylvia Tamale, participants were sensitized on how sexual harassment crops up in institutions of higher learning, and public places; the key drivers, preventions and response strategies; and the international, regional and national legal and policy frameworks for prevention and responses to violence against women and girls.
“Sexual harassment is manifested in form of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature,” she said.
Internalizing the Makerere University Policy and Regulations against Sexual Harassment, Dr Euzobia Baine Mugisha encouraged all members to report any sexual harassment matter to the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate. According to her, any person in authority who receives a complaint of sexual harassment and fails to take any pro-active steps to progress the matter in a timely manner commits an offense and shall be subjected to disciplinary proceedings.
Reiterating the importance of reporting, the Director of Legal Affairs Mr. Henry Mwebe said, “Not reporting is an offense especially if the person withholding information occupies a leadership position.” He urged students and staff to always lodge complaints on matters of violence and sexual harassment in a timely manner and in a well-documented format.
Participants were also introduced to Gender Equity Budgeting by Associate Professor Consolanta Kabonesa and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and its linkage to violence against women and girls presented by Dr. Josephat Byamugisha.
Article by Nabatte Proscovia, Makerere University Public Relations Office.