Initiative to stand against harassment at Cairo University

Sexual harassment is a universal phenomenon and constitutes a violation of the sense of security and safety of individuals. Until very recently, sexual harassment in Egypt was considered a taboo issue and victims of harassment hesitated to report incidents for fear of being stigmatized or blamed. Since the revolutionary wave in 2011, the silence around harassment as a social problem was broken and sexual harassment became a subject of wide debate, as more women felt empowered to step up and report incidents. In early 2014, and in response to non-governmental organizations working on combating sexual harassment in society, the government issued a law that criminalized sexual harassment.  This encouraged a group of academics at Cairo University to initiate the formulation of a sexual harassment policy that would define the problem and outline ways for prevention as well as holding perpetrators accountable. The ultimate goal is to render universities safe spaces for all students and to create an environment conducive to equal opportunity and mutual respect.

A working group was formed in March 2014 and included staff members, student representatives, and civil society organizations active in the field of combating sexual harassment. The proposal was welcomed by the President of Cairo University, and a number of measures were put in place. An anti-harassment task force was established and consisted of a higher committee chaired by the President of the University and entrusted with issuing anti-harassment policies and monitoring their implementation, and an executive committee that implements the policies.  This rendered Cairo University the first national university to endorse an anti-harassment policy that commits to raising awareness about the problem and spells out disciplinary measures against offenders.

In order to facilitate access to the task force, the executive committee appointed representatives at the 24 faculties who will act as liaisons with the central unit. These representatives have received specialized training on the policy and procedures plus handling complains and providing support to victims.

The policy outlines mechanisms and procedures for reporting sexual harassment according to specific guidelines based on the Supreme Council of Universities Laws.  There is also a particular focus on prevention through training and awareness campaigns, plus a referral system for psychological support to the psychological support unit at the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University.

Our aim is to make Cairo University a safe space for students and staff alike.

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