YES Tanzania Executive Director Kenneth Simbaya (left) and his Financial Fundraising Coordination Lusajo Luvanda (extreme right) in a meeting with the SBC Tanzania Ltd Mbeya Plant General Manager Sanjar Munsh (centre) over possible partnership in implementing a project dubbed ‘Zero Tolerance against Gender based violence and sexual harassment in tertiary learning institutions. (Photo by Friday Simbaya)

By Friday Simbaya, MBEYA: Youth Education through Sports Tanzania (YES Tanzania) a youth led and youth focused NGO based in Mbeya region intends to start a project of raising awareness in the region (Mbeya) in higher learning institutions on the impact of sexual harassment and gender based violence (SGBV).

According to the YES Tanzania Executive Director Kenneth Simbaya, YES Tanzania has approached SBC Tanzania Limited for possible partnership in implementing a project dubbed ‘Zero Tolerance against Gender based violence and sexual harassment in tertiary learning institutions.

Simbaya said told The Guardian yesterday that YES Tanzania has sought sponsorship from SBC Tanzania Ltd so as to raise awareness in the colleges and universities on the impact of SGBV.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) refers to any form of act of violence that result in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering of the women and girls, men and boys on the basis of their gender.

Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted act of sexual nature that causes discomfort to the harassed. They include words, persistent request for sexual favours or dates, gestures, touching, uninvited sexual overture, coerced sexual intercourse and rape.

He said that there is growing concerns that GBV in all its forms is rampant at all levels of education sector in the country and are rarely reported.

GBV according to Simbaya, affects both girls and boys, but in a different magnitude. Female students are at greater risk to suffer sexual violence but most of them do not report.

“This leads to physical, emotional, and psychological trauma. It is said that female students maintain a culture of silence while suffering and that some of them opt to remain in those abusive relationships for various reasons including, money, higher grades on examinations and tests, presents and social entertainments like being taken out for dinner, disco as well as fear of reprisal in situations where the abuser is a lecturer or an administrator,” he explained.

In most universities, YES Tanzania has noted that there are no trusted adults whom students can share their views and concerns, something which calls for urgently installing of counselors and mentors if we are to alleviate this problem in our learning institutions, he said.

YES Tanzania has noted that female students are sexually abused by male students, lecturers, and administrators, but suffer in silence because they say even if they report no action will be taken by either the university management or law enforcers.

The studies show that girls are dropping from out of school due to stigma, and score low marks because they do not concentrate on their studies, get unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

“This is a time bomb which if not urgently addressed will seriously erode the potentials of education in society and the gains we have made in education,” Luvanda said.

He said through the project YES Tanzania will be able to create awareness in and out of universities and colleges so that everyone is empowered and knows the consequence GBV.

However, Tanzania has taken various measures to prevent and eradicate violence against women and children. The government has formulated the Tanzania Development Vision 2025, which was adopted in 1999 with the objective of building a strong economy, good governance and upholding the rule of law in its efforts to improve quality of life for all.

The Women and Gender Development Policy of 2000 has been adopted with the aim of giving direction to stakeholders in advancing women socially, culturally, economically and politically. The focus is on among others, women’s ownership of property, participation in decision-making at all spheres of development, access to business and credit facilities and modern technology.

Apart from policy formulation, the Parliament has also passed the Sexual Offences (Special Provisions) Act of 1998, which aims at safeguarding the dignity and integrity of women and children in clearer manner than hitherto, it has also introduced new offences like sexual harassment, sexual abuse and trafficking in persons. In addition, the Act provides for stiff punishment and the right of compensation to victims of violence.

Nearly 50% of all sexual SGBV worldwide occur among the youth, yet youth are not sufficiently engaged to be part of the solution, Universities and colleges have gender policies which youth hardly comprehend and youth do not fully understand the dynamics of SGBV.

Women fearing violence are less able to protect themselves from infection. They do not have the power to negotiate for safe sex or refuse unwanted sex.

While men and boys also experience gender based violence, women and girls are more affected by sexual violence and are consequently more susceptible to HIV/AIDS.

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