UNESCO champions movement on Zero Tolerance for Gender-Based Violence in Higher Learning Institutions

Higher and tertiary education institutions in the SADC region, including Tanzania are home to a large number of sexually active young people. Once they join higher learning institutions, students are mature and are free from the constant guidance they received from either parents or guardians. That gained freedom if not well managed put them in challenging situations. Students become vulnerable to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) related concerns including gender-based violence risks as they navigate new responsibilities, relationships, and experiences on their own and in unfamiliar settings.

Ensuring that the higher and tertiary learning Institutions are safer and has inclusive environment that promotes gender equality and equity in access to quality education, UNESCO’s O3 Plus project joined hands with government efforts through Ministry of Education Science and Technology and Ministry of Community Development, Gender, Women, and Special groups in promoting gender equality, including eradicating sexual violence in higher learning Institution environment in establishing and operationalize of gender desks in colleges.

Professor Faustine Bee, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Dodoma and the host of gender desk launch and handover ceremony, commented that establishment of the gender desk at the university will help to make UDOM’s Gender unit strong and effective.

In the official launch of University of Dodoma Gender Desk that was on 22nd July 2022, UNESCO handed over 800 copies of gender desk register books, which are the important tool for implementing the 2021 Guideline for the establishment of Gender desks, and for operationalizing the activities of the gender desk in higher and tertiary institutions.

Gender desk register books that development and printing process was supported by UNESCO under the coordination of the Ministry of Community Development will help in documenting all GBV related cases, and create GBV user friendly reporting systems and manage GBV referrals. The register books will offer required data and information for ministry and partners in planning intervention that address reported cases.

Spearheading health and wellbeing of higher learning peers UNESCO will fully support operation of Gender desk by offering orientation to the management, furnishing gender desk offices, capacity strengthening of selected gender desk coordinators and raising awareness of gender desk existence in all 17 colleges benefited by O3 Plus project.

UNESCO’s Our Rights, Our Lives, Our future (O3 Plus) project is funded by The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). During the launch SIDA’s representative Ms. Stella Mayenge congratulated UNESCO’s effort for taking all opportunities available to help young adults in the country to have safer and inclusive learning environment.

UNESCO’s Officer in charge Mr. Michel Toto emphasize that they will continue to support innovation in access to life skills based cultural appropriate sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for HTEI students while advocating for policy and practice changes to make campuses safe and inclusive learning and teaching environments for students and staff. In doing so, the project will institutionalize health and well-being programs for students while engaging leadership for long-term commitment and sustainability.

Furthermore, the University of Dodoma were pleased with this initiative and through their gender unit coordinator Dr. Lily Makalanga commented that the Launching of the gender desk is a milestone to them, and an important step towards strengthening university’s commitment for ensuring that the university community, particularly the young people have a reliable and trustworthy point of presenting their concerns and receive support.