First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa is consulting legal experts to help come up with legislation to protect female tertiary students from sexual harassment at colleges and the workplace while on industrial attachment. "Sexual harassment at colleges and during student attachment must be nipped in the bud and perpetrators of such violence brought to book," she said.
"I will also seek guidance from the legal fraternity on how policies and legislation that protect female students on college campuses and industrial attachment can be put in place and enforced so that sexual harassment is curbed."
The First Lady was officiating at a two-day SAYWHAT Web for Life female students’ conference in Harare yesterday.
Mrs Mnangagwa said she had recently met female lawyers who agreed to establish a desk at her offices at Zimbabwe House to deal with matters affecting women.
Students attending the conference bemoaned the high cost of sanitary wear, gender-based violence - especially sexual harassment, lack of information and education materials on sexual reproductive health for females especially those who are visually impaired among others.
The students also complained of shortage of cervical cancer screening facilities and information on family planning and contraceptives.
The First Lady said she was in the process of setting up an entity to make washable pads and would also engage relevant authorities to ensure easy and cheap accessibility of sanitary wear.
"I am sewing sanitary wear that does not come with health problems and I am doing it myself. I want to see if it comes out well but I have started, it is a good product which is washable, durable, you don't buy pads every month. I am going to invite you to show you what I have done," she said.
"I commit to do my best and consult with the relevant Government departments and other stakeholders to ensure that the provision of sanitary wear is subsidised and easily accessible in institutions and that the environment of learning is conducive for female students.
"I will also do my best to ensure that sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and awareness is increased and standardised in tertiary institutions, that our college hospitals and clinics are equipped with trained competent service providers to provide youth friendly services, that there is disability mainstreaming within the colleges."
She further promised to take the students' grievances to the Government so that they would be addressed.
Speaking at the same occasion, Women and Youth Affairs Minister Sithembiso Nyoni said she was concerned by incidences of HIV and STIs among young women in Zimbabwe, particularly in tertiary institutions.
She added that some students were driven by poverty to engage in sexual activities with older men.
"President Mnangagwa set up this ministry and has mandated us to protect you, therefore you have a ministry where you can run to. As the minister responsible for women and girls empowerment in all sectors, my ministry is seized with implementing programmes to raise awareness and help curb infections in young women," she said.
"The ministry is partnering with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Office of the First Lady in implementing the programmes."
SAYWHAT board chairperson Mrs. Judith Mungofa and the principal of Belvedere Technical Teachers' College, Mrs. Juliana Mbofana, thanked the First Lady for her commitment and support of the girl child in Zimbabwe.
By Tendai Rupapa
Source: The Herald