Zululand District Mayor, Cllr Thulasizwe Buthelezi;

Abaqulusi Local Municipality Acting Mayor, Cllr Mncedisi Maphisa;

DHET/DSI Regional Manager, Dr Sipho Nzimande;

HIGHER HEALTH CEO, Dr (Prof) Ramneek Ahluwalia;

Mthashana TVET College Principal, Mr Dimba;

GBV Expects present

Mthashana SRC President, Ms Nombulelo Gumbe;

All student present;

Members of the media;

Ladies and gentlemen

Let me take this opportunity to firstly pass my regards to you for joining us in this ground breaking Dialogue, follows the “First Things First Health and Wellness Activation” and the HIGHER HEALTH  Mobile Clinic Routine Services which took place here at the  Mthashana College two day ago, from the 20th and the 21st of this month - April.

 

As I address you this afternoon, somewhere in this country a woman or a child is being abused, beaten, assaulted or terrorised.

They face this violence on the streets, at school, on campuses, at work and place of worship and, worst of all, in their own homes.

In a country with the most progressive of constitutions, which promises equality and dignity for all, the women and children of South Africa live in fear of violence every day.

 The scourge of gender-based violence and femicide has surged and is one that continues to ravage our country and eradicate our social and moral fibre. Statistics indicates that One (1) in three (3) girls are raped before the age of 21. This is an unpleasant information to share. However, it illustrates the mammoth task we have as a country to fight the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide.

Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence experienced by South African women in higher education. According to the 2012 Medical Research Council (MRC) research – 10% of the reported cases are from higher education, with 55% of males and 54% of females thinking that “sexual violence does not include forcing sex with someone you know”. Again, this is another concerning statistic to share.

The PSET sector as a microcosm of our communities, has been significantly affected by this so-called pandemic.

The country continues to lose many of our young women and even young members of the  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community in various incidents of GBVF and homophobic hate crimes. In the past two weeks alone, we learned of the gruesome murders of Sphamandla Khoza from Ntuzuma in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Andile Ntuthela from KwaNobuhle in Gqeberha, this is two of many other names we do not know about.

 

In response to GBVF within the Post School Education and Training sector, we have developed a Policy Framework to Address Gender-Based Violence in the PSET System (2020).

 

This  policy framework was developed by HIGHER HEALTH in consultations with all our Universities, TVETs and PSET system management, student leadership and student bodies.

I sincerely thank HIGHER HEALTH and all the stakeholders involved to come-up with this first ever policy framework within our sector.

It should be noted that GBV was also an element of recent university student protests starting with the ‘Anti-Rape Culture’ protests in public universities. Most of these students are between the ages of 18 and 35 years.

Most of our students in PSET institutions are products of a patriarchal society that promotes masculinity and has within it, legacies of gender, race and class inequalities. This is the reason gender is one of the transformation priorities of the Department since its inception in 2009.

Our Policy framework addresses all forms of GBV; encompasses all sexual identities and has established norms and standards for the development of institutional policies and guidelines to address GBV in PSET institutions.

It should be noted that the Department has followed an integrated model informed by universal human rights principles in developing the policy framework.

Another important point is that the policy framework clearly states the roles of the Department and the roles of PSET institutions.

The policy framework equally recognizes the fact that GBV is a societal issue hence it calls for collaboration between civil society organisations, sister departments and PSET institutions in the development and implementation of advocacy programmes against GBV. The change in mindset should not only be system-wide in the education and training system but should also be in the entire society.

As part of establishing an enabling environment both within DHET and PSET Institutions to ensure the effective implementation of the DHET GBV Policy Framework, I am now informed that HIGHER HEALTH established a PSET GBVF Technical Task Team, which is a multisectoral stakeholders inclusive of all the DHET branches, Department of Women, SAPS, CGE, USAf, SACPO, SAUS, SAVETSA, MRC, Civil Society, Private sector and is being chaired by Professor Puleng LenkaBula, Vice Chancellor of UNISA.

I am confident that this technical task team will deliver a valuable GBV response to the PSET sector and I extend my full support to HIGHER HEALTH and the Technical Task Team in driving the implementation of the Policy Framework.

This task team will advise and guide HIGHER HEALTH’s implementation of the DHET Policy Framework and also provide specialist expertise for GBVF interventions within the PSET.

On top of the work that HIGHER HEALTH has done thus far, it will also develop a Sexual and Gender Misconduct Guiding Framework prepared to guide PSET Institutions. This institutional template includes responsibility and compliance, behaviour constituting GBV, investigation and disciplinary process, consequences etc.

HIGHER HEALTH protocols will amongst others deal with lighting at all our institutions, security at our residences, safety standards, protection on outreach or field visits, whistleblowing and alcohol.

In addition, HIGHER HEALTH will prepare training and capacitation materials for PSET institutions that will cover the context of GBVF, gendered privilege, underreporting and normalisation, myths and realities  of GBV.

Amongst the people to receive training are the human resource personnel, unions and ‘frontline workers’, such as security, student affairs, campus housing and residences, residence students and house committee leadership, student leadership (SRC and clubs), first year students and the general student populace, to build their knowledge, skill and capacity to deal with GBVF across our sector.

Higher Health has also established a 24-hour helpline in all 11 official languages. They can be contacted at 0800 363636.

The HIGHER HEALTH also offers all our students with health, wellness and psychosocial risk assessment toolkits for early screening, empowerment and referral on GBV, Mental Health, HIV, TB, STIs, Substance Abuse, Unplanned Pregnancies, etc. 

 

Whilst DHET and the PSET system, is fortunate to have HIGHER HEALTH as its implementing agency with regard to student health and wellness, GBVF requires constructive partnerships and concerted efforts with industry experts, leaders, civil society organisations and Chapter 9 institutions to eliminate this unfortunate behaviour before it collapses the future of our country and by extension, that of the African continent.

While it is commonly understood and acknowledged that women face the greatest risk, we also need to ensure that we pay attention to other vulnerable groups such as people living with disabilities and LGBTQI community, whose rights are far too often violated as well, and their struggles are often heard only in the margins of our society.

Above all else, we need to acknowledge that these are all issues of human rights - rights that are enshrined in our constitution and we have a collective responsibility to protect them at all times.

As I conclude, I would like this dialogue in unison agree on the following:

  1. That the rights of women and children are inalienable and must be both upheld and enforced;
  1. That the drivers of gender-based violence are diverse and need a multi-faceted response that includes all sectors of society;
  1. That we share the view that the economic inclusion of women is critical to their independence and self-reliance and necessary to decrease their vulnerability to violence; and
  1. That violence against women is not a women’s problem, but that it is also a men’s problem.

As men, let us take responsibility at a very personal level for the protection of the women and children of our country.

It is men who can challenge harmful cultural and social practices that undermine women’s rights.

It is men who can and must refuse to be part of criminal gangs that assault and rape women.

It is men who can and must take responsibility for their own personal behaviour and understand that coercing a woman to have sex is rape, and that ‘no’ means ‘no’

It is men who must raise their sons to understand that women and men are equal, and lead by example.

It is men who must repudiate the idea that a man must prove his manhood by abusing a woman.

It is men who after being convicted and sentenced for violence can seek rehabilitation and not offend gain.

As men, we must say no.

No, domestic violence is a not a private family matter.

No, we do not have the right to discipline our children with violence.

No, a woman is not inviting rape or sexual assault because of her personal life choices, where she chooses to socialise or how she dresses.

Let us work with the police and come forward with information about such crimes.

Let us support, not discourage, survivors who want to lay charges.

Let us believe our children when they tell us they are being abused.

Let us take greater care of our own children and those children that are placed under our care.

I call on all of you to consider the consequences of your silence.

Gender-based violence has no place in our post school education and training sector.

We will win this war if we work together.


I thank you.