As part of the 16 days activities and initiating the conversations around survivor’s voices in learning institutions, UN Women partnered with Vunja Kimya foundation to bring together students from 6 universities of multisectoral academic backgrounds to address their thoughts and expectations of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence prevention and response in their institutions from various aspects.
Vunja Kimya campus project is an initiative under Elim Trust, which was started with the aim to break the silence, create awareness, work towards and achieve solutions in regard to Sexual harassment and other forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Universities
The thrust of the initiative’s is to foster creativity and innovative forms to motivate students to not only participate, but also present applicable solutions and preventable measures to sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence.
Emphasis was made on the need for democracy accountability of institutions to create an open and safe space where issues gender-based violence can be addressed without shame. Dr. Wandia Njoya pointed out that it is through putting institutions to account that survivors will be able to break the GBV silence.
“We need to democratize education- prevent the feeling in students that they have to do everything the lecturer says or else… Students need to stop feeling so tied to the universities by thinking that a degree is everything- it is not. Our intelligence and freedom matter more.” Dr. Wandia pointed out.
This forum brought together students from 6 universities, student leaders, service providers along the gender-based violence referral pathways, representation from UN Women, Vunja Kimya foundation and university leadership at various levels.
As a way of encouraging survivors to speak out without fear of stigmatization, the Vunja Kimya project started the conversation in the dark series where survivors openly share their experiences without revealing their identity as that has been the underlying factor as to why survivors keep to themselves.
“We want to impact universities, we don’t want to be ashamed anymore. We want to talk about not being embarrassed by experiences of GBV in our homes and the university. GBV is happening but we are not willing to talk about it.” Charity, the chair of Vunja Kimya Initiative explained.
Narrating her experience, radio presenter and media personality Adelle Onyango reiterated that 16 days is not enough citing that there is need for us to make noise about GBV every single minute, hour, day.
“The statistics to don’t allow us the luxury to keep silent about it or even wait for the 16 days.” She pointed out
When I (Adelle) spoke about my experience, this was used as a tool to justify the rape: ‘‘Girls should not have girls’ nights out; girls who get drunk get what is coming to them; girls who are out after 9 pm or girls who dress a certain way are inviting rape.’ The backlash came from both men and women, and from educated people as well.
‘’Hear me too’’- that’s great, but the next part is for you to play your part. Don’t just tell me to share my story if you will not do your part. Everyone has a responsibility.” She added
“If you are a health care provider and you don’t treat survivors with dignity and sanity, you are not listening; If you are a police officer and you do not listen to survivors when they report and do your best to help- you are not listening; If you participate in beating down survivors who share their stories online, or keep silent when others do this, you are not listening; If you have friends who believe all the negative norms (about dressing, no means yes…) and you don’t call it out or rectify it, then you are not listening.”
UN Women Country Director, Zebib Kavuma pointed out the importance of such spaces in understanding the issues and creating solutions. “It is painful and uncomfortable for people to come out and speak about what they have gone through- To stand in front of strangers and tell their stories.” She pointed out.
“I urge you not to make this discussion about women alone- much as statistics show that most of the victims are women, we need to have dialogue between men and women and create solutions.”