Safe Campuses, Safe Futures: Act Now
Higher Education Institutions grapple with gender-based violence (GBV), challenging the safety and efficacy of student advocacy. The organisation 16 Ways for 16 Days underscores the urgent need for collective action and policy reform within these institutions to address and eradicate GBV, advocating for a collaborative approach that involves all stakeholders in creating a safer educational environment.
By Barbara Atsieno Alusala
The years spent in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have been touted as “the most transformative phase of one’s life”. The significance of this statement remains elusive and only becomes clear when one steps into this new world.
Standing on the precipice of leadership, adulthood, and the capacity to shape society, the communities within HEIs wield influence over the younger generation and have the potential and opportunity to build the capacity of the youth to discern and rally against injustices. Beneath the surface of this profound transformation lies a perturbing issue – gender-based violence (GBV). Just as the HEI experience encompasses all aspects of life, so do the far-reaching consequences of GBV.
In tertiary institutions, student councils are often regarded as the heartbeat of student advocacy, yet they face significant challenges in executing their roles, which include advocating for support of critical initiatives linked to GBV. The sad state of the fight against GBV within tertiary institutions is further worsened when perpetrators are members of the student body – or even leadership or staff of these institutions – contributing to increased distrust and division within the wider tertiary institution community.
The result has been a continued loss of faith in the existing systems and structures, negatively affecting the efficiency of existing policies that can help combat GBV in these institutions. This evidence of the deteriorating landscape within HEIs highlights the need for all stakeholders in tertiary institutions to unite in restoring the safety of all within campuses, and for all to embrace their roles in contributing to restorative justice.
The far-reaching and complex effects of GBV are irreversible, underscoring the importance of prevention over reaction at every level of society. Furthermore, the men in our communities must be engaged and perceive themselves as benefactors in this collective struggle.
It is in this context that 16 Ways for 16 Days continues its work in campuses across the continent. We are an organisation committed to combating gender-based violence from an Afro-centric perspective. We have developed a platform with a large student following and are creating a community of awareness on social media.
In the pursuit of understanding and addressing the critical issue of gender-based violence (GBV) within HEIs, our efforts reveal a multifaceted landscape that calls for comprehensive action. In the pursuit of understanding and addressing the critical issue of gender-based violence (GBV) within HEIs, our efforts reveal a multifaceted landscape that calls for comprehensive action. In response to this, we have dedicated this year to investigating the issues and structures that bear the greatest potential for redress.
We envision and continue to work towards a future which prioritises holistic solutions while emphasising the balance between radical and rational activism. We continue to promote and advocate for management and student bodies to join hands to combat GBV. With the statistics of GBV continuously rising across the continent, we call on all stakeholders to unite and together create, and effect policies, systems, and cultures that will eradicate GBV in our tertiary institutions. In a truly powerful movement, all must see themselves not merely as supporters of the cause, but as part of the solution. This reality makes it even more urgent for all stakeholders to unite in efforts to maintain a safe educational space, whose impact will hopefully spill over into our societies.
About Barbara A. Alusala
Barbara is a medical student and the founder of 16 Ways for 16 Days, an organisation focused
on using Afro-centric perspectives to challenge and combat gender-based violence in Africa.
The team comprises young individuals across South Africa and Kenya. Their goal is to
advance the platform to produce measurable outcomes within their local spaces through community empowerment and upstream interventions.