International Women’s Day

Stepping up the HeForShe Campaign at the University

Date: Monday, March 12, 2018

usiu heforshe
Participants discussing the meaning of consent at the USIU IWD event Photo: UN Women/ Ken Okoth

USIU Africa is one of the leading private universities in Kenya and has adopted safe spaces for women and girls on the campus. The university through the office of the Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Zaleza has embraced the HeForShe movement which is now actively promoted on the campus. This is aimed at addressing gender parity and sexual harassment at the university.

Through the HeForShe club, the learning institution organised a gender equality awareness week for the Spring Semester 2018 which also coincided with the International Women’s day. The objective of this event was to create awareness on gender equality, discrimination and bias and the role that society needs to play and embrace towards a more gender balanced world.

The Gender Equality Awareness Week 2018 themed “Consent Awareness”, involved several activities all building up to the International Women’s Day which included games and trivia, photo sessions, HeForShe custom manicures, men’s yoga session as well as a cross dressing competition. This brought on board other clubs interested in addressing gender equality issues such as AIESEC, Michezo Afrika, Red Cross, Young Diplomats Forum, Public Speaking and the Men’s Rugby team.

The climax of the event on March 8th brought together students and faculty heads lead by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza, UN Women, Ending Violence Against Women and Girls programme specialist Ms. Grace Wangechi, and Nancy Kungu a psychologist from the Counselling department and Gender Activists Nancy Wafula and Regina Mwangi.

According to the Global UN Women report Turning Promises into Action, only 56% of women aged 15-49 (married or in a union) who make their own informed decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care.

According to Prof. Paul Zaleza, the university has achieved parity among the students however there is much to be done in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields and at the faculty level. “This past year the university has been joined by eight new senior leaders, five deans, two associate DVCs for Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, and Director of Finance. I am happy to report that five out the eight are women,” Prof. Zaleza reported. He further acknowledged that the upcoming faculty recruitment with serve towards attaining parity at the faculty level.

Due to several incidents of alleged sexual assaults reported recently within the University, the club undertook an awareness campaign, to sensitize students on the importance of consent in sexual relationships and inform them of the various support systems offered by the University and other organization in case of sexual assault.

Ms. Grace Wangechi noted gender based violence has been normalized across learning institutions that victims no longer report.  "We all have experienced a form of gender-based violence or at least know someone who has, the main challenge lies on reporting.” She encouraged students to make use of the available youth friendly reporting platforms that include the GBV Kenya hotline 1195 and the Service providers directory."

The event was graced by a group of youth who displayed a dedication to end Gender-based Violence and mostly who were young men who came out strongly through poetry presentations.

The university has made several strides towards the attainment of gender parity and fight against gender based violence which include the recent launch of a Sexual Harassment Policy. As it stands, the institution is at 40:60 women to men ratio for both student and staff and strive to achieve parity in the next 3 years.