International Day of the Girl Child Call for Commitment to End Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Institutions

SAYWHAT joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child, a day that as an organisation, we take time to reflect on the prevailing challenges and gaps in the current initiatives to address gender issues among young people, while also celebrating the milestones made to date in the gender discourse at various levels.

This year’s celebrations are coming at a time when SAYWHAT has been strengthening interventions to ensure the college environment is a safe space for the girl child, especially by breaking the silence on sexual harassment.

International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated on the 11th of October every year with the aim of supporting more opportunities for girls as well as increasing awareness of gender inequalities they face worldwide. While we celebrate the progress that has been made so far as a country in ensuring the girl child’s access to higher education, we remain deeply concerned with the violations of the rights of the girl child in Zimbabwe’s tertiary institutions. The culture of silence and lack of political will to decisively act on the perpetrators has made sexual harassment dominate as key factors that have made this vice a secret pain that university students perpetually have to endure.

SAYWHAT through its various platforms continues to play a pivotal role in educating young people both male and female on the importance of upholding sexual and reproductive health rights for all. Through its Web4Life platform for young women, the organisation has been empowering young women to know their rights, encouraging them to speak out and defend their rights. The organisation has also been among those advocating for the strengthening of comprehensive sexuality education especially within the education sector to empower young people, while at the same time leading advocacy for improved policy environment where young people can enjoy their rights including access to SRH services.

Noting the gap in male engagement, SAYWHAT also has a Mugota/Inxiba platform where boys/young men in tertiary institutions are taught to become role models in society by becoming agents of change against violence on adolescent girls and young women. Engaging young men has been one of the progressive initiatives currently being done to eliminate sexual harassment in tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe. Under the Spotlight Initiative, SAYWHAT is targeting to bring to the “spotlight” harmful practices within our societies, sexual harassment included.

As we celebrate the day under the theme, “Empowering Girls for a Brighter Tomorrow,” SAYWHAT calls upon for collective efforts in eliminating sexual harassment, which is one of the biggest gender issues affecting mostly young women today. As an organisation, we pledge to continue to inform, educate and advocate for the empowerment of girls. However, without the necessary policy environment and commitment by college authorities to create sustainable structures and systems to make the college environment a safe zone for the girl child, our efforts will be in vain.

To all the girls in Zimbabwe and across the globe, we say keep shining and know you are the jewels of society. Stand up for your rights and break all barriers to your visions!

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD!

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