Schools are among the most frequently-cited areas where sexual harassment is reported in Cameroon. Furthermore, research conducted by ourselves and other organizations has indicated that sexual harassment, which disproportionately impacts female students, often occurs between students or others known to the victim. Unwanted verbal and physical conduct that is sexual in nature can come from students, instructors, or other school staff, and can take place both on campus and on off-campus school programs and activities. We are determined to combat this problem across the country’s academic institutions.
The Safe Learning Environment (SALE) Project was thus created as a way for us to promote an academic and community culture that effectively and strategically addresses and prevents sexual harassment in learning environments. We believe that one way to foster a culture that respects human rights is to promote a safe school environment that is conducive to teaching and learning. Therefore, through the SALE Project, we intend to implement a multifaceted sexual harassment prevention program in select secondary schools and higher learning institutions in Cameroon. Several key themes of this project (which is slated to commence in October 2020) are as follows:
- Training, outreach, and awareness: We will work with institutions to develop training sessions for students, guidance counselors, instructors, and school administrators intended to educate students about harassment and what to do if it occurs. We have also developed manuals to support school officials who wish to develop comprehensive anti-sexual harassment policies.
To spread awareness about this issue on a wider scale. We have also launched a multimedia campaign where we have utilized television spots, social media, physical flyers, and other outdoor and virtual materials to reach a wider audience about the importance of rejecting sexual harassment in our communities.
- Advocacy and lobby efforts: We advocate for the institution-wide adoption of sexual harassment prevention policies, procedures, and training programs. Furthermore, we also lobby for the appointment of an Ombudsperson at university faculties so that there can be a designated school official who will handle situations of harassment.
- Support platform: Establish a pro bono legal and psychosocial support platform for those who have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment.
- Joint Reflections: Ensure that participating institutions convene annual PRRPs (Participatory Review and Reflection Processes) to review and document the implementation and adherence to the respective sexual harassment policies.
This project is an important part of the fight against sexual harassment in Cameroon. As we work toward a reality where this conduct is no longer tolerated, it is crucial that we are involved in a coordinated effort with schools, government ministries, community leaders, and other local authorities to finally put an end to this pervasive issue.