Addressing Gender-Based Violence on College Campuses in Malawi
Gender-based violence (GBV) in institutions of higher learning in Malawi remains a major concern, as little attention and effort is dedicated to addressing it. But what perpetuates cases of GBV in these institutions? Who are common victims? Are there mechanisms that could ameliorate it?
“Most female students have been victims of sexual harassment—mental or physical—but the incidents are not reported, as the reporting mechanisms are not well-known within the student community. In addition, victims also face a lot of backlash from the student community if they report a case. Therefore, many victims suffer in silence,” explained a student from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR).
In recognition of this issue, EngenderHealth Malawi worked with the Essential GBV Services and Prevention Project to hold panel discussions at two LUANAR campuses: the Natural Resources College and Bunda College of Agriculture.
The panels focused on facilitating open discussions around GBV among college students; raising awareness on what GBV entails; and understanding the resources for reporting GBV, both on campus and beyond.
The discussions were facilitated by key players in GBV prevention and response efforts on campus, such as the university registrar responsible for student affairs and representatives from the police and the student union.
“We have heard of and handled cases of GBV here at the campus, including many instances where male students sexually harass female students. It is indeed very common. However, these discussions have enlightened us. Hence, as campus administration, we are committed in supporting this call to address GBV incidents,” said Noel Jambo, Assistant Registrar–Student Welfare at Bunda College.
The discussions provided a critical platform in opening up the discourse around GBV on campus and raising awareness on what GBV entails and on the available reporting mechanisms, both on campus and within the national institutional structure.
Speaking at the panel discussion at Bunda College, Chisomo Kaufulu, EngenderHealth Malawi’s Project Director, said, “EngenderHealth is committed to reaching out to college students to raise awareness and stimulate action to address GBV at campuses. These panel discussions have revealed the need to sustain the discourse on GBV and work with college authorities and students to address GBV.”
As next steps, EngenderHealth intends to further engage with the university administration and students to set up comprehensive prevention and response strategies within the campus premises. EngenderHealth will continue building capacity of gender foundations at the campuses and facilitating GBV training for the administration, staff, and students, to dispel beliefs that perpetuate GBV on campus.
EngenderHealth’s Essential Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Prevention and Services Project is a two-year U.S. Department of State–funded project. While Malawi has a strong legal framework, strong GBV and gender-related policies, and government support for a multisectoral approach to GBV, few survivors ever access formal services, and the incidence of GBV remains high. Even when people access formal services, the response mechanisms are often not comprehensive. The Essential GBV Prevention and Services Project seeks to focus on strengthening the coordination and enhancing the capacity of a range of stakeholders (including government, key members of civil society, organizations working with women and girls/men and boys, and gatekeepers of cultural and social norms—particularly traditional and faith leaders) to: coordinate a multisectoral approach to GBV prevention and response, strengthen linkages between and among multisectoral actors, improve overall legal response to GBV, and engage in GBV prevention efforts to address the root causes of GBV (e.g., gender inequality, patriarchy, and inequitable social and gender norms).