Sabahan Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign In Universities
Today, Malaysia still does not have a law on sexual harassment, and at most only one section is covered by the 1955 Employment Act.
A few days ago, however, Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun announced that the long-awaited sexual harassment bill is expected to be ready by March and will be tabled during Dewan Rakyat’s next session, according to Malay Mail.
However, the proposed bill alone took 20 years to get to where it is today, as it was led in 2000 by a coalition of NGOs through the Joint Action Group. for Gender Equality (JAG) with AWAM.
Therefore, a group of Sabahan women took matters into their own hands to cover some ground in Sabah, especially in higher education institutions in Sabah, and founded Safe Campus.
A large number of unreported Sexual harassment Case
Safe Campus was started by a group of 4, but is now run by only 2 remaining leaders, Christyne Surindai and Amanda William.
They are volunteers from SAWO, Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group, which advocates on domestic violence survivors, women’s rights, and provides leadership training to young women known as SAWOrriors.
“It is a known fact that campuses in Sabah, especially around the urban area, are not safe for female students, there have been many instances of sexual harassment,” Christyne and Amanda shared with Vulcan Post.
“To name a few, a 22-year-old student was abducted and raped from a distance from her dorm in 2008, and in 2019, a foundation student was sexually assaulted by the campus security guard.” , they shared.
Therefore, their focus on raising awareness of sexual harassment was on higher education institutions in Sabah due to the increase in cases occurring on campuses, many of which go unreported.
“It is also time for higher education institutions to have the right mechanisms and support to help victims of sexual harassment.”
Lack of awareness of anti-sexual harassment policies, well-lit hiking trails, and reliable security personnel that should have been provided by universities is what led to these incidents in the first place, they explained.
Teamwork is the origin of dream work
Although Safe Campus is, for now, a team of two people, they do not lack the support of other organizations in this mission.
Before the organization even started, they joined the Young Southeast Asian Leaders (YSEALI) Bootcamp, an initiative created by Biji-Biji Initiative, Me.reka, and the United States Embassy, in September 2020 for 4 weeks. in a team of four at first.
The bootcamp aims to reward 5 winning groups to receive seed funding of RM6,000 each to launch their project, receive technical assistance and 3-month mentorship. Safe Campus was one of the projects that won the competition.
“For 3 weeks, we attended various webinars, virtual classrooms, had access to educational videos and articles provided by the bootcamp to ensure that participants were given the appropriate means to learn what they needed to do. . And last week, all the teams will present their final video and presentation, ”said the duo.
They also shared that throughout the week, they were able to connect and learn from notable Malaysian activists like Ivy Josiah of the Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) and Dato ‘Ambiga.
Therefore, after the 4 week bootcamp ended, Safe Campus started campaigning in mid-October 2020.
How do they campaign?
On their social media pages, they post small size sexual harassment education like some legal resources in Malaysia, forms of sexual harassment, myths and misconceptions etc.
Recently, they produced a video featuring 5 anonymous Sabahan survivors who shared their experiences and held an online sexual harassment workshop on Zoom.
“Our main goal with this campaign was to give students an understanding of sexual harassment and what can be done to prevent it from happening at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).”
“We hope to secure further funding that will allow us to work with other campuses in Sabah to institute a response mechanism and policies for sexual harassment,” they explained.
As of now, the YSEALI funding for them has already ended, and all the activities promised to come with this funding have already been completed.
However, they will find other ways to raise funds and will continue to work with SAWO to continue this campaign.
Overcome Barriers related to OLS
Part of their awareness of anti-sexual harassment policies on campus is working with student leaders from different clubs, helping them better understand the problem and what can be done about it.
“By educating the leaders of student associations, we hope that they will return to their clubs and create a ripple effect, such as carrying out activities that will make their members aware of sexual harassment,” they explained.
However, when the second AGC was announced, Christyne and Amanda had to rebuild their businesses and bring them online.
“It was difficult for us to reach the students who were studying off campus. We were also unable to run the campaign on campus and engage in better dialogue with key people in the student body on campus, ”they shared.
However, the first workshop on online sexual harassment went well despite the hiccups, and they are already planning a second round for these leaders.
In the long term, Christyne and Amanda would like to welcome more activists interested in joining this cause.
- You can read more about Safe Campus here.
- You can read more NGOs we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: Christyne Surindai and Amanda William, Founders of Safe Campus
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