UN envoy speaks tough on sexual harassment as 74% varsity female students abused

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

UNITED Nations Resident Coordinator in Zimbabwe, Bishow Parajuli has urged Zimbabwean authorities to invent solutions aimed at protecting young female students from rampant sexual exploitation within the country’s tertiary institutions.

This follows claims by the Female Students Network Trust while appearing before parliament’s women’s affairs and gender committee that 74% of female students in local tertiary institutions have been subjected to sexual harassment by male staffers within different campuses in the country.

At a dialogue meeting on sexual exploitation at universities, which was attended by students from 10 higher learning institutions in the country at the University of Zimbabwe, in Harare Friday, Parajuli said “one case of sexual harassment is one-too-many”.

He urged all academic institutions to ensure “all students have the best environment to succeed academically”.

The UN envoy also called for support by the institutions for students to become empowered adults who can make an honest living and contribute meaningfully to society.

Among some of the solutions proffered by the UN envoy was the introduction by universities, of strict policies that speak to “zero tolerance” towards sexual abuse.

These, he said, must be communicated adequately and consistently to management, staff, and students.

Parajuli said the institutions should move to educate students, lecturers, management and staff on what constitutes sexual harassment, coupled with the setting up of proper reporting procedures on any such abuse.

He said the concerned processes must “ensure reporting procedures give students and whistle-blowers the assurance that there will be no victimisation should they make reports about incidents”.

He added, “Strong disciplinary measures, including dismissal, must be taken against perpetrators regardless of position or level of influence in campus and empower victims and advocates to share their stories and become agents of change as prevention is always better than cure.”

The dialogue was supported by the Embassy of Sweden.