One of the ways UMP addresses GBV is through collaboration with various external stakeholders. The UMP Gender Forum partners with other South African universities such as University of Witwatersrand (WITS), University of Cape Town (UCT), University of the Western Cape (UWC), and others under the motto: “Universities in collaboration against GBV and Homophobia.”
This collaboration provides opportunities for staff and students from various institutions to attend anti-GBV events and learn from each other's experiences in addressing GBV and homophobia at universities. In addition, UMP works collaboratively with local higher education institutions such as Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the TVET, and the municipalities to create safer spaces and combat GBV in the local communities.
Diversity, inclusivity and equality
In recent years, UMP has made significant strides towards achieving equality and to live up to one of its important values: Diversity. Policies have been put place to promote gender equality and inclusion.
The university has a gender equality policy in place and has carried out its mandate by employing women in high and strategic positions. In addition, UMP has sexual harassment and sexual orientation policies, which have been developed to address instances of GBV, and to accommodate and create safe and inclusionary spaces for those who are non-gender conforming, respectively.
To help enforce these, UMP has established committees such as the Transformation Committee, the Employment Equity Committee, as well as the Gender Forum. Furthermore, students have established the Rainbow Alliance (for the non-binary students) and GBV student societies.
In addition to policy and collaboration efforts, UMP has also implemented practical measures to combat GBV and Homophobia. The university has launched a series of GBV training and other gender related activities. Currently UMP students are involved in a competition for the development of the institutional GBV strategy and the implementation plan.
These efforts are in response to national frameworks and policies, including the Continuing Education and Training Act, the Higher Education and Training Act, the Policy Framework for the Realisation of Social Inclusion, and the DHET's Policy Framework and Implementation Procedural Guidelines on GBV in the Post-School Education and Training System.
Despite the progress made, there is still much work to be done in addressing GBV and promoting diversity and inclusion in higher education. UMP, like other HEIs, still has a challenge of Heteronormative and homophobic tendencies that continue to alienate students who are non-binary or LGBTQIA. However, UMP will continue to work with external stakeholders to create a safe and inclusive campus for all students, academics, and the community at large.
The University of Mpumalanga recognizes the importance of promoting gender equality and addressing GBV in higher education. Through strengthening collaboration with external stakeholders, enforcement of policies and practical measures, and a continued commitment to diversity and inclusion, the institution will continue in making significant strides towards creating a safe and inclusive campus for all.
While challenges persist, UMP will continue to work relentlessly towards a future where all students and staff can thrive in a welcoming and supportive environment, ensuring the human rights of all.
@ Dr Nonzwakazi Maqubela is a Sociology and Gender studies senior lecturer and Chairperson of the Gender Forum at the University of Mpumalanga.