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UKZN announces new module to help the fight against gender-based violence

The University of KwaZulu-Natal plans to take a step further in fighting against gender-based violence.

THE University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has announced plans to roll out a Social Justice Educational Module which will be compulsory for all students. According to the university, this is a key strategic intervention that is expected to bring about change in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

The announcement was made at a GBV Awareness Panel Discussion held on the UKZN Howard College Campus recently.
The university is in the process of appointing a central strategic coordinator for SGBV response, has established a specialised SGBV Investigations Unit and plans to roll out an innovative Social Justice Educational Module, which will be compulsory for all students.

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Executive director for Corporate Relations at UKZN Normah Zondo said the SGBV response official will be a central figure in shaping and implementing the university’s comprehensive approach with a particular focus on enforcing accountability measures, enhancing preventive systems and bolstering existing support and response mechanisms. “This appointment is critical in instituting a zero-tolerance policy on SGBV across all campuses of the university. The coordinator will also oversee the revision of existing SGBV-related policies and manage systems for the monitoring, evaluating and tracking of reported cases,” said Zondo.

The newly established SGBV Investigations Unit will prioritise maintaining the confidentiality of cases and ensuring the prevention of secondary victimisation for victims of SGBV. Zinhle Dlamini from the University’s Risk Management Services spoke on the operations of the unit and the support systems available to students. “We have trained officers who are available at all hours of the day and night to deal specifically with GBV cases. These officers will accompany a complainant to a police station and assist with talking to family members and with relocation from residences if required.”

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The aim of the soon-to-be-launched Social Justice Educational Module is to broaden students’ perspectives on not just SGBV but also on a variety of social issues like racism, gender inequality and classism. “We believe this module, which will be compulsory for all first-year students, will help foster active participation in societal change,” said Zondo.

Chairperson of the UKZN Gender-Based Violence Committee, Dr Janine Hicks, spoke on the committee’s efforts to respond to GBV against students in higher education. “The university has been working hard to ensure that students are heard and that our GBV policies at UKZN are in line with the government’s response. We are delighted to have this institutional response to GBV.”

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One of the speakers on the panel, Advocate Mzo Rusi, who heads the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA) unit of the National Prosecuting Authority in KZN, explained the motivation for the establishment of the SOCA unit and Thuthuzela Care Centres which prioritise sexual offence matters. He provided information on the services provided at these centres and advised on the many measures and protocols that are essential when reporting a GBV case.

The university said their activism and awareness campaigns will be ongoing with students at the forefront. Over the next few weeks, students will lead awareness marches on all campuses.

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