In October 2020, Makerere University launched an online platform to fight sexual harassment in higher education institutions in Uganda.
The overall aim of the online platform (kish.mak.ac.ug) is to support the processing of sexual harassment cases in a confidential and safe space. Through the system, the victim is able to privately upload evidence against the accused and monitor progress of the investigations. The system also provides an online course to sensitize staff and students on the different forms of sexual harassment and the support mechanisms for victims.
The online service is a product of an ongoing action-oriented research project being undertaken by the School of Women and Gender Studies in collaboration with the School of Psychology and the School of Computing and Information Technology at Makerere University, as well as the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Kyambogo University to kick sexual harassment out of higher education institutions in Uganda.
The project titled, "Whole University Approach: Kicking Sexual Harassment out of Higher Education Institutions in Uganda (KISH)" is supported by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere Research and Innovations Fund (RIF). It seeks to enhance staff and students’ knowledge and life skills for prevention and response to sexual harassment.
Following a year of activities, the research team led by Prof. Grace Bantebya early this year conducted a mid-term evaluation to check the progress of the project. Other members on the project include; Dr Florence Muhanguzi Kyoheirwe, Dr Julius Kikooma, Prof. Gilbert Maiga, Dr Elizabeth Kyazike and Dr Joab Ezra Agaba - KISH System Development Consultant.
On 13th October 2021, the researchers disseminated the findings of the evaluation to Makerere University staff and the general public. The dissemination event was presided over by Hon. Jacob Oulanyah, Speaker of Parliament on behalf of the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni.
According to the evaluation report, the online platform, currently accessible by only Makerere University staff and students is conceived to be very effective in managing cases of sexual harassment.
The evaluation revealed that the project was on track and had registered numerous achievements. As planned, the project team established KISH clubs, conducted training for female students in their first year at the university and enrolled them in the clubs, established the men’s hub and undertook several men’s dialogues with male students and staff. The project team also developed and set up an online course as well as an online web-based system for reporting, supporting and processing cases of sexual harassment. They also set up social media platforms for public engagement on issues of sexual harassment. According to the evaluation report, the female students noted that the KISH clubs empowered them with knowledge about their rights and are able to overcome sexual harassment. The students revealed that they learned how to identify the indicators of sexual harassment, identify who the sexual harassers are, how they can avoid being sexually harassed, and how they can seek for help in case they or someone close to them is sexually harassed.
However, according to the Principal Investigator, Prof. Grace Bantebya, the evaluation revealed that acts of sexual harassment had been highly normalized, and that there were a number of policy deficiencies that undermined efforts to curb the vice. Prof. Bantebya said plans were underway to make the course on sexual harassment compulsory for all staff and students as a measure to increase awareness about the vice.
In her remarks presented by Hon. Jacob Oulanyah, the First Lady, also Minister of Education and Sports, Hon Janet Kataaha Museveni commended the researchers for what she described as a great initiative in the fight against sexual harassment in the country. “Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of cases of sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation reported not only within universities but also in other institutions throughout the country. This is a major issue that creates a hostile education and work environment and that affects productivity of both students and staff at our institutions. I applaud Makerere University's willingness to acknowledge the existence of this vice at the institution. I too acknowledge the efforts by the University leadership and staff to create a safe environment for learning and working by instituting policies and structures to combat the vice,” she noted.
She specifically commended the researchers for undertaking an action-oriented research project that has provided a holistic approach to addressing sexual harassment in Higher Education Institutions. “Thank you for establishing Kicking Sexual Harassment out of Higher Education Institutions (KISH) student clubs, an on-line course on this issue, Men’s Hub, and the web-based application for reporting and handling these cases. The Online System that you have designed is a very welcome initiative, especially in this day and age when everything is going digital. We have to acknowledge that fact that our children, who are the most vulnerable to the vice, spend most of their time on the internet, and therefore, creating a system that they can easily access fast and safely to report is highly commended,” she explained.
The First Lady appealed to the researchers to extend the service beyond Makerere University.
Addressing participants, the Chair, Makerere University Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara appreciated the researchers for the great initiative aimed at curbing sexual harassment. She expressed dismay at the persistent acts of sexual harassment despite the initiatives being undertaken to end the vice. Explaining the measures being undertaken to curb the vice at Makerere, Mrs. Magara noted that the University was the torchbearer in the fight against sexual harassment. “Makerere operates a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment. A single case of sexual harassment is one too many and highly unacceptable,” she said. Explaining the complexity in dealing with the vice, Mrs. Magara appealed to Parliament to review the laws on sexual harassment as a measure to expedite the judicial processes. “Delayed justice in cases of sexual harassment presents a sense of despair amongst the victims. It is important that the laws on the vice are reviewed to expedite the judicial processes,” she noted.
Representing the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, the Acting Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration, Dr Josephine Nabukenya said the project would largely address cases of sexual harassment at the University.
See attached a summary of the mid-term evaluation.