Hundreds of turned up to students for a public dialogue on sexual harassment held over the weekend at Makerere University under the theme “Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment”.
“Stop sexual harassment, break the silence, and speak out” said Dr. Euzobia Baine Mugisha, the Director-Makerere University Gender Mainstreaming Directorate.
Dr. Mugisha defined sexual harassment as any form of unwanted, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or unwanted physical, verbal or nonverbal conduct of a sexual nature.
She revealed that since its establishment in 2000, the Directorate has implemented several strategies to sensitize students on sexual harassment matters as well as the policy and regulations against sexual harassment.
She noted that female students are the most victims of sexual harassment, in as much as everyone is vulnerable. She advised students to report such cases to the Directorate as soon as possible so that the harasser is punished.
The Director sensitized students on their role in championing zero tolerance to sexual harassment by indicating the dangers and implications of sexual harassment. She encouraged students to read the University policy against sexual harassment and other policies on examinations, semester systems, remarking scripts among others.
“Don’t give in for sex thinking you are solving a problem. The implications are more than you may think. Please avoid meeting any University official outside the University premises. Conduct official business within official University working hours,” Dr. Mugisha guided the students.
The Deputy Director at the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate Ms. Frances Nyachwo advised female students to value their bodies and not let anyone mess up with them. She emphasized that any form of sexual harassment be it from a Lecturer, boyfriend or husband is a crime one can be punished for when reported.
“Sexual Harassment is a crime, whether done by a student, boyfriend, husband or a Lecturer,” said Ms. Nyachwo
She urged the students (victims) of rape to always report to the hospital for medical treatment before going to the police. This helps to prevent HIV-AIDS contractions and early pregnancies.
Representing the 85th Guild President, the Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Mariam Mugisha said that the Guild cabinet is working with the Vice Chancellor to end the immoral act of sexual harassment.
She informed the audience that the 85th Guild Gender Minister plans to set up a desk at the Guild offices to handle sexual harassment cases reported by students. She called upon all the students to say No to sexual harassment.
The former Guild Representative Councillor (GRC) Africa Hall and Minister for Gender Ms. Barbra Nankoma pointed out that the 84th cabinet sensitized students on the sexual harassment policy.
She noted that some students were victims of sexual harassment, but feared to speak out. She urged such victims to be courageous and speak out in order to protect their rights and the rights of others.
Ms. Nankoma requested the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate to allocate the slots for student peer trainers equally such that all halls of residence, colleges, and academic programmes are represented in the training.
The Senior Gender Officer, Gender Mainstreaming Directorate Mr. Eric Tumwesigye expressed gratitude to the peer trainers for organizing a successful public dialogue.
Mr. Tumwesigye said that a team of 50 students from Makerere University was trained as peer trainers to help the Directorate sensitize fellow students on sexual harassment matters. He added that more 100 peer trainers are to be inducted in the coming month with the purpose of fighting sexual harassment.
He also encouraged students to be empowered and always stand out to resist immoralities in the community. “Whenever you stand out to end an immoral act in a community, you stand to save lives of people,” Mr. Tumwesigye said.