A recent survey by ActionAid has revealed that half of all female students and a quarter of male students in Kenyan institutions of higher learning have been sexually harassed.
When Associate Professor of Gender and Development Studies, Grace Wamue-Ngare, became Director of the Centre for Gender Equity and Empowerment at Kenyatta University, she knew she had to do something to address this growing problem.
Professor Wamue-Ngare quickly realised that with incidents of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), cases are often dropped because of lack of evidence or are simply not reported due to a fear that survivors will not be taken seriously. So she applied for an ACU Gender Grant, securing funding to cover the costs and development of the Kenyatta University SGBV Reporting App.
The mobile app makes it easy for students and staff at Kenyatta University who have experienced SBGV to anonymously report incidents of sexual harassment, abuse and gender discrimination. The data is then submitted to the Centre for Gender Equity and Empowerment for investigation. Users can upload evidence, view emergency numbers to contact the police and access a counselling centre, all via the fully secure Android app.
As Professor Wamue-Ngare explains: ‘The commonest form of SGBV in universities in Kenya is sexual harassment among staff and students, often surrounded by gender power dynamics. The app unearths the usual culture of silence, fear of intimidation and general apathy of unconcluded cases, which quite often lack factual evidence.’
As well as strengthening reporting mechanisms and evidence collection which should deter possible perpetrators, it is Professor Wamue-Ngare’s hope that the app will break the culture of silence that prevents people from coming forward. The result: a safer campus for all.
The app will also function as a communications tool allowing the Centre for Gender Equality to communicate important news. Messages about SGBV and gender issues, developed in collaboration with Women Education Researchers of Kenya (WERK), will also be featured.
So far, the app has received a positive response with the Kenyatta University administration and fellow concerned colleagues welcoming the platform.
As Professor Wamue-Ngare described: ‘When we launched it we were joined by many representatives from other universities across the country, and they were asking a lot of questions about it, wondering whether it can be applicable to other universities. There was a lot of hope, and my Vice Chancellor is very excited with the initiative.’
Kenyatta University is a proud champion of HeForShe, the United Nations global solidarity movement for gender equality. Professor Wamue-Ngare shared details of the app at a recent HeForShe forum meeting, where it was also met with praise.
Describing the ACU gender grant as ‘a golden opportunity’ to utilise modern technology to address SGBV, Professor Wamue-Ngare is delighted that the university management shared her vision and enthusiasm for the project.
‘To have delivered this to the university gives me a lot of fulfilment because I’m passionate about addressing SGBV. I am a survivor of it, and I would hate anybody to go through what I went through. I believe if we could transform the life of only one girl or one boy in the university, then we have done something.’
The Kenyatta University SGBV Reporting App is available to download on Android. The App launched 21 June 2020 and has had 50,000+ downloads to date.
For more than 30 years, the ACU has worked to address gender issues – such as championing women in leadership and combating sexual violence on campus – in partnership with our member universities.
Our annual ACU Gender Grants help our members to meet the costs of organising projects promoting gender equity and equality in their institutions. The grants can be used for a diverse range of projects, workshops, and events in areas such as supporting women in leadership, science and research; mainstreaming gender equity into the curriculum and developing anti-sexual harassment initiatives.