Dear colleagues and students
The high rates of gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa have given rise to significant public calls for and support of campaigns to end GBV. The University of Cape Town (UCT) is committed to responding to GBV, which is a problem on our campus and within the higher education sector. To this end, we are running the UCT GBV Campaign in the second semester.
From July to December this year, the university, under the guidance of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) for Transformation, Professor Loretta Feris, is launching a six- to seven-month focus on GBV. As an institution of higher learning, we recognise that we should play a role in leading research and conversations on gender-based and sexual violence while at the same time putting policies and systems in place to address all forms of GBV. We furthermore acknowledge that there are many role players assisting in addressing GBV in our institution, through their teaching, research, advocacy, activism and support roles. We are working in consultation with them and are grateful for their initiatives and support.
The intention is to articulate how UCT responds to GBV through improved systems for gender-based violence management within the institution, through advocacy and awareness, and through research. It is also very important to ensure that students and staff are aware of UCT’s policies and know when and where to seek assistance and guidance.
The “JUST NO” (#JustNO) campaign carries the message that UCT does not tolerate gender-based violence and rape culture. JUST NO is therefore the central tag line for the relevant communication materials and the UCT position. In our response towards gender-based violence, we are invited to reflect and participate, so that we can collectively stand against GBV at our university and beyond its borders – in our homes and communities. Together with faculties, residences and administrative departments, each sector can participate by hosting seminars and workshops, and placing information and communication materials in buildings.
On 2 August 2019, the UCT GBV Campaign – with support from the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, the Office for Inclusivity and Change, the Student Wellness Services, the Sexual Assault Response Team and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation – will hold a silent protest. This is a peaceful, annual gathering of students and staff on campuses during the month of August to show solidarity with rape survivors and to promote the right to be free from all forms of gender-based violence. It also highlights the challenges rape survivors face after reporting incidents of sexual violence. Each silent protest includes a briefing, a message from the UCT executive, symbolic silencing, a march, a “die-in” and an open mic session to end the protest, allowing participants to break the silence about gender-based violence. I invite you to join me on the Silent March.
We must challenge ourselves collectively to do something differently that enables the change we seek at UCT. Lastly, we all need to account: account for inaction, account for lack of participation. In all of these phases, we do not ask survivors to act – in fact, we ask those who have not been affected by violence to enable the difference that is sought.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
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