Addressing gender-based violence on Zimbabwe college campuses, by By Evernice Munando, Female Students Network Trust (Zimbabwe)

02 October 2017

Mary* is a woman who recently came to the Female Students Network Trust (FSNT) seeking support following a sexual assault that took place on her college campus. A student at a teachers college, she had been raped by a campus security guard, who also threatened to kill her.

Mary is one of the many young women who come to us seeking assistance from the mistreatment, psychological abuse and sexual harassment that they are experiencing on college campuses.

The negative impacts of this abuse are far-reaching. Beyond the immense emotional distress,suffering and health consequences, gender-based violence affects these young women’s education and career opportunities.

FSNT is supporting Mary and other victims of gender-based violence to access psychosocial support and to obtain justice, as well as advocating for safe learning environments throughout Zimbabwe so that these incidents do not occur ever again.

In the past, FSNT referred such cases to partner organizations with the capacity to offer counselling services, legal aid and medical support. However, with the increasing number of cases, the need is simply too great. FSNT is developing its own capacity to offer assistance and provide rapid responses when students are most vulnerable through its #SmartGirls campaign.

In Mary’s case, FSNT offered its premises in Harare for counselling in an environment away from where she had been attacked. The Network also engaged a legal resources foundation in Masvingo for legal advice. We visited the teachers college to understand what had happened, and were received by the college principal, who welcomed our assistance and indicated that the case was being brought to court.

The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education Science and Technology Development applauded FSNT for its hard work in ensuring the safety of young women in tertiary education institutions, and sent a representative to visit Mary at FSNT premises.

FSNT is making strides in raising awareness and ending gender-based violence across Zimbabwe. We will continue to support Mary in seeking justice, and creating college campuses that promote respect and equality for all.

FSNT was awarded the 2016 UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education for its project “Empowerment of tertiary education female students through leadership development and mentorship programmes in Zimbabwe”.

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   *For protection and privacy, the victim’s name has been changed.