University of Exeter Streatham campus

Cairo delegation visit explores combating harassment and violence against women

Representatives from Cairo University visited the UK for a one-week study visit to explore different models of combating harassment and violence against women on university campuses. During the visit, the delegation spent 23rd November on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus, where they met with the Provost and students, academics, and professional services staff involved with the Provost Commission.

In May 2018, Exeter’s Provost, Professor Janice Kay, set up the Provost Commission. Made up of students, representatives from FXU and the Students’ Guild, and University staff, the group seeks to ‘implement new approaches, events, initiatives and policies to ensure Exeter is an open, diverse and safe university community for all.’ As a part of the process, the University is also engaging with a number of external stakeholders to ensure multiple views are considered. Cairo University has been one of Africa’s most proactive universities in addressing harassment and violence against women and girls, so the visit provided both institutions with an opportunity to share valuable experiences and discuss the challenges that they continue to face.

Cairo University was the first university in Egypt to address the issue of sexual harassment by establishing a unit to combat violence against women and sexual harassment. The ‘Anti-Harassment and VAWG Unit’ was established early 2014 in response to a sexual harassment case which underlined the need for the university to act on addressing and preventing such incidents. The British Council and ‘Anti-Harassment and VAWG Unit’ of Cairo University have undertaken collaborative design work to identify priority target groups and means of implementation for a programme that contributes to a safe university environment for the university community (men and women) and free from violence for women and girls. The resulting ‘VAWG Free Campuses’ project was designed and the project will take a rights based approach but will be delivered with sensitivity to the university community through the Anti-Harassment and VAWG Unit.

During the visit, Exeter staff and students spoke to the Cairo delegation, who were advised by Dr Helen Mott, about the work of the Provost Commission, providing an institutional perspective on the challenges that students and staff can face in a British University. The delegation also met with the VP Welfare, Rose Ahier, and a number of other students currently involved in relevant students groups or campaigns.

Rachel Fenton, one of Exeter’s Speak Out Guardians and an expert in the prevention of violence against women, was instrumental in arranging the visit and hosted the delegation during their stay. Dr Fenton and members of her research team, Dr Cassandra Jones and Janet Keliher presented research findings from their current scoping study into gender-based violence in universities and corollary legal obligations, funded by the GW. Dr Fenton said ‘It was an extremely interesting and productive day, with the insightful sharing of ideas and learning for effective prevention and response between both universities. Violence against women is a significant public health and human rights issue across the globe and coming together to share best practice is so important for ensuring that we work together to eliminate it and that our campuses are safe for all.”

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