Arts and Design Faculty hosts robust dialogue on GBV

by Gerrit Bester

2 February 2023

There are more layers to Gender-based Violence (GBV) than meets the eye, and a much clearer definition of this phenomenon could be a good starting point to enable educators to increase awareness among students.

Facilitating a dialogue on GBV at the Faculty of Arts and Design are (from the left) Dr Laetitia Orlandi (Acting Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning, Faculty of Arts and Design), Manoko Mogoroga (Psychologist at the Faculty’s Gender Desk), Dr Annah Sefolosha (Director: Directorate of Health and Wellness), Stephan Potgieter (Psychologist: SDS, Faculty of Arts and Design), and Sister Victoria Malatse (HOD: Directorate of Health and Wellness).

This was the gist of a candid conversation on GBV led by staff members of the Faculty of Arts and Design, moderated by the Acting Assistant Dean: Teaching and Learning, Dr Laetitia Orlandi, and other University stakeholders on 19 January. 

The dialogue kicked off the Faculty’s vision for the next five years, called Artivism. Artivism is a portmanteau word combining art and activism, aimed at driving social change.

Dr Annah Sefolosha, Director of the Directorate of Health and Wellness, and Sister Victoria Malatse, an HOD also from Health and Wellness, unpacked the principles of the Community of Practice (COP) of Universities against GBV, that TUT is a member of, to start this discussion. The latter urges institutions of higher learning to create policies that proactively aim at seeking answers to respond to societal concerns and to prevent and eradicate the plague of GBV on university campuses.

Dr Sefolosha and Sister Malatse briefly alluded to a tool, with specific indicators, that has been developed by COP to assist universities in drafting such policies and put forward initiatives by other universities in this regard. These initiatives include a compulsory and credit-bearing module for first-year students to address issues such as poverty, inequality, gender, GBV, ethics, culture, as well as having a gender portfolio for Student Representative Councils, among others.

However, Arts staff expressly raised their doubts about such a module, stating that "GBV is not simply a box-ticking and module exercise, but a multidimensional and severe one that needs to be treated every day." 

They also highlighted tricky issues relating to gender identification, norms and social constructs that pose challenges for staff and students.

Following Higher Health's recommendations, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) created a GBV-framework last year, which among other things led to the establishment of the first GBV Desk at the Faculty of Arts and Design. 

Manoko Mogoroga, a psychologist with specialised knowledge and experience in the area of GBV, joined the Faculty as a result of this. When asked to define GBV, she replied that it was damaging behaviour directed at a specific person based on their gender-identification, emphasising that its psychological impacts should not be disregarded.This definition, which seems to get more complicated and changes all the time, sparked several questions, concerns, and suggestions from the audience. 

These included the difference between bullying and GBV, excluding other genders (especially males) from the conversation, the narrative that GBV is an only male-on-female attack and physical, a lack of role models and absent fathers, the need for staff training to become gender sensitive (also in terms of the language they use), etc. 

One participant said that fundamentally people have lost sight of where the problem lies. "I don’t believe in policies. The answer is to teach respect by not necessarily tiptoeing around people."

Participants concluded that, although there are more questions than answers, there is a need for frequent conversations to contextualize GBV. In addition, they agreed that teaching staff must continue to teach about diversity, tolerance, gender equality, and acceptance by altering their own behaviour.

Creating a safe and confidential environment, having a better understanding of the diverse student community, and clarifying the GBV definition to increase understanding could also assist.

  • As part of dealing with GBV and femicide at institutions of higher learning, government will soon be launching the Transforming MENtalities Initiative, with a focus on mobilising men in the sector to become champions for a world free of gender biases, stereotypes, violence and discrimination. Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, on Tuesday, 24 January, said the Department had noted various incidents of GBV on campuses with many resulting in female students being brutally killed.
Edwin Manyaka, Assistant Registrar: Student Judicial Services (centre), also participated in the dialogue.

PHOTOS: Boitumelo Choene

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