Alliances for Africa Stands Firm Against Sexual Harassment: Demands Sustainable System Change in Tertiary Institutions
Alliances for Africa, a leading feminist organization championing gender justice and human rights across the continent, is deeply concerned about the recent allegations of sexual harassment at the University of Calabar. We recognize the gravity of the situation and firmly stand against any form of sexual harassment in educational institutions.
The allegations of sexual harassment involving the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof. Cyril Ndifon, have rightfully sparked outrage and concern. Such incidents undermine the dignity and well-being of students and erode the integrity of the educational environment.
Alliances for Africa commends the University of Calabar’s management for taking immediate actions to address this issue, including the establishment of a committee to investigate the allegations and the involvement of external bodies such as UNICAL Alumni, the Federation of Female Lawyers, and the Federal Public Complaints Commission. These actions demonstrate a commitment to transparency and accountability.
However, it is essential to recognize that addressing sexual harassment requires more than just responding to individual cases. It demands a holistic approach to create lasting change. It requires ensuring all systems and settings that promote unequal power dynamics, victimization, intimidation, inequality, abuse and violation of human rights within the institution are addressed. These structural systems create an environment where such violations are more likely to occur, making educational institutions unsafe for the girl child.
Is it not disheartening that a survey conducted in 2018 by the World Bank Group’s Women has it that 70 per cent of female graduates from Nigerian tertiary institutions have been sexually harassed in school, with the main perpetrators being classmates or lecturers?
Therefore, Alliances for Africa calls for the following systemic reforms in tertiary institutions across Nigeria, and Africa:
- Comprehensive Anti-Harassment Policies: Develop and enforce comprehensive anti-sexual harassment and prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (PSEAH) policies that clearly define prohibited conduct, establish transparent reporting mechanisms, and protect survivors’ rights.
- Gender-Sensitive Education: Incorporate gender-sensitive education into the curriculum to promote respect, equality, and consent, fostering a culture of mutual respect among students and staff.
- Create Reporting Mechanisms:
Establish confidential and anonymous reporting mechanisms for students and staff to report incidents of harassment, abuse, or power imbalances and ensure that individuals who report are protected from retaliation.
- Empowerment of Survivors: Provide robust support services for survivors, hospital referrals, including counselling, legal aid, and access to confidential reporting channels.
- Diversity and Inclusion: Promote diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life, ensuring that every member of the academic community, including the marginalised and vulnerable groups, feels valued and respected.
- Training and Awareness: Implement mandatory training programs for all faculty, staff, and students to raise awareness about sexual harassment and its consequences. Including a thorough acceptance and understanding of safeguarding policies by staff and students.
- External Oversight: Establish external oversight mechanisms to monitor and evaluate institutions’ compliance with prevention of sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment (PSEAH) anti-harassment policies and practices.
- Zero Tolerance: Enforce a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, with strict consequences for perpetrators, including legal action where applicable.
Alliances for Africa believes that tertiary institutions should be safe spaces for learning, personal growth, and the pursuit of knowledge. We call on the Gender Units of all Nigerian institutions to rise and be a voice of awareness and protections of students in their institutions. We call upon all African universities particularly Nigeria to adopt these reforms and work collectively to eradicate sexual harassment from our campuses.
We commend the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for its proactive response in setting up an ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations against Prof. Cyril Ndifon, we appreciate the Civil Society Organizations already rising to condemn this inhumane act. This demonstrates the legal community’s commitment to justice and accountability. This is another case out of the spoken and unspoken cases and the solution lies in dismantling all the faulty systems that promote sexual harassment in tertiary institutions.
We remain resolute in our mission to ensure gender justice and a world free from all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination. We stand with the students of the University of Calabar and all survivors of sexual harassment, offering our unwavering support.
For further information, please contact:
Ms. Iheoma Obibi
Alliances for Africa
World Bank, Owerri, Imo State