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Confronting sexual violence in colleges – countries and activists adopt tough measures to tackle the crisis

Confronting sexual violence in colleges – countries and activists adopt tough measures to tackle the crisis

By Pavithra Rao

Rachel Njeri, a student of Makerere University in Uganda, wept bitterly when recounting a sexual assault that took place in April 2018. “I tried to resist his actions but he was stronger than me. He grabbed me and threw me on the cabinet files at the corner.”

Her attacker, she alleged, was a university administrator. He has since been suspended and charged with sexually harassing a student.

Ms. Njeri said she had gone to collect her transcript from the administrator’s office when the man pounced on her. She managed to take a photo during the attack with her mobile phone that went viral.

In Nigeria, the Obafemi Awolowo University in June sacked a tenured professor for allegedly demanding sex from a female student, Monica Osagie, in exchange for passing marks.

Ms. Osagie released to the public a secretly recorded conversation with the professor. The audio was widely distributed on social media, grabbing the attention of international news organisations such as CNN and the BBC.

University authorities confirmed that one of the recorded voices was Mr. Akindel’s. He demanded sex in exchange for a passing grade, to which Ms. Osagie responded, “Prof, you know what? Let me fail it. I can’t do it.”

In Africa, reports of the sexual abuse of young women by their professors have increased with the help of social media and new recording technologies.

The World Health Organisation reported in 2014 that young women are commonly taken advantage of in school environments, while UN Women reported that up to 20% of women in Nairobi schools have been sexually harassed.

In January 2018, Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni released an investigative report on sexual violence in higher education institutions in the country. The report stated that 40% of males and 50% of females felt sexually threatened on their campuses.

Many cases unreported

In a study published this year, Experiences of Gender-Based Violence at a South African University: Prevalence and Effect on Rape Myth Acceptance, researchers Gillian Finchilescu and Dugard Jackie of the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, found that most sexual assault cases are unreported, which hamstrung prevention efforts.

The #MeToo social media campaign that began in the US in 2017 to raise awareness about sexual harassment and abuse has also encouraged some African women to speak out. Mona Chasserio, who runs a shelter in Senegal for women rape victims, told Reuters last October that, “Women are starting to speak out, little by little, but we’re only at the very beginning.”

“Most girls will not report it because no one believes them,” laments Ms. Njeri. But a defiant Ms. Osagie told CNN, “I am actually happy I came out.… For me, speaking up will bring more women to speak and eradicate what is happening around young women.”

In April 2016, female students at South Africa’s Rhodes University protested the high number of rapes on campus. To counter the common practice of victim blaming, the students published the names of 11 male students who had allegedly been involved in sexual assault but had not faced any investigation. University authorities denied they had shown scant attention to the issue.

On why many women do not report sexual assault cases, Ms. Osagie said they are afraid of being insulted or humiliated by others. She said that after she publicized her ordeal, “A guy came up to me at a bank and said, ‘Is this not the girl who harassed a lecturer?’ and called me a prostitute.”

Unethical conduct

Several countries, universities and students have tried various measures to control the unwanted behavior.

Ugandan parliamentarian Anna Adeke, who represents the National Female Youth Constituency, in April this year led efforts to set up a parliamentary special committee to investigate sexual harassment in institutions of higher education in her country.

A Sexual Offences Bill was presented in the Ugandan parliament in 2016; however, shocking cases of abuse still occur. In 2017, the proprietor of a prominent institution allegedly fathered several children with his own students.

Former secretary-general of the Uganda National Teachers’ Union James Tweheyo said at the time, “It is not ethical, it is not professional, it is even religiously wrong. It is wrong for somebody entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of children to be the one to lead them into temptation.”

In 2016 the Nigerian Senate enacted the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prohibition Bill; offenders could face up to five years in prison. After the Obafemi Awolowo University story broke, the Senate passed a motion to investigate sexual violence in universities nationwide.

Benin has introduced a law that makes sexual harassment illegal in schools, offices and homes.

Civil society has not lagged behind in fighting the vice. Over the years, African citizen activists have become more vocal in campaigning against all forms of gender-based violence. Egypt’s Mariam Kirollos became prominent during the Arab Spring uprising when she mobilized crowds to chant: “Harassment will not do you good; a woman’s voice is not a sacrilege, it is a revolution.”

Naming and shaming

Ms. Kirollos cofounded the group Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment and Assault. Due in part to the activism of this and other groups, Egypt in 2014 passed a law that criminalizes sexual harassment. Before then, says Ms. Kirollos, sexual harassment “was often conflated with rape.”

She adds, “This conceptual and lexical opaqueness of the meaning of the term reveals the multiple layers of denial that allowed a violative behaviour to be a normative one, wildly spread, particularly with the absence of a law to explicitly define it.”

Egypt has witnessed a jump in reported cases of sexual assaults since the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak from the presidency, with large numbers of mob attacks on women during political protests.

A 2013 UN study stated that 99.3% Egyptian women had experienced sexual violence. Campaigners, such as the human rights activist and lawyer Ragia Omran, have called for the government to do more to stop the abuse.

Countries are doing the right thing by passing laws against sexual violence, but there could be an increase in reported cases if victims feel able to trust the authorities. Passing new laws is not enough, said Mary Wandia, a leading Kenyan women’s rights advocate, adding that, “The police force is often uninterested in domestic violence. Unless a woman can show physical evidence of the violence she has suffered, police and law-enforcement authorities are often unwilling to believe and assist her.” In other words, laws passed must be fully enforced.

Biola Akiyode, Ms. Osagie’s lawyer, said that, “This victory [the professor’s sacking] should encourage any university or secondary school student to speak out. What Monica [Osagie] did was very brave, and I hope lecturers will now see that there are consequences to their actions.”

The Speaker of Parliament in Uganda, Rebecca Kadaga, plans to name and shame on the floor of the Parliament any teacher indulging in sexual abuse of students.

Hopefully, citizen activism, buoyed by awareness-raising on social media will lead to the enactment of laws and rules—that authorities will enforce—against sexual abuse in institutions of higher learning on the continent. Africa Renewal


About The Author

Sanlam 2018 Annual Results

7 March 2019

 

Sanlam’s 2018 annual results provides testimony to its resilience amid challenging operating conditions and negative investment markets

Sanlam today announced its operational results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018. The Group made significant progress in strategic execution during 2018. This included the acquisition of the remaining 53% stake in SAHAM Finances, the largest transaction concluded in the Group’s 100-year history, and the approval by Sanlam shareholders of a package of Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) transactions that will position the Group well for accelerated growth in its South African home market.

Operational results for 2018 included 14% growth in the value of new life insurance business (VNB) on a consistent economic basis and more than R2 billion in positive experience variances, testimony to Sanlam’s resilience in difficult times.

The Group relies on its federal operating model and diversified profile in dealing with the challenging operating environment, negative investment markets and volatile currencies. Management continues to focus on growing existing operations and extracting value from recent corporate transactions to drive enhanced future growth.

The negative investment market returns and higher interest rates in a number of markets where the Group operates had a negative impact on growth in operating earnings and some other key performance indicators. This was aggravated by weak economic growth in South Africa and Namibia and internal currency devaluations in Angola, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Substantial growth in Santam’s operating earnings (net result from financial services) and satisfactory growth by Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) and Sanlam Corporate offset softer contributions from Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) and Sanlam Investment Group (SIG).

Key features of the 2018 annual results include:

Net result from financial services increased by 4% compared to the same period in 2017;

Net value of new covered business up 8% to R2 billion (up 14% on a consistent economic basis);

Net fund inflows of R42 billion compared to R37 billion in 2017;

Adjusted Return on Group Equity Value per share of 19.4% exceeded the target of 13.0%; and

Dividend per share of 312 cents, up 8%.

Sanlam Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ian Kirk said: “We are satisfied with our performance in a challenging operating environment. We will continue to focus on managing operations prudently and diligently executing on our strategy to deliver sustainable value to all our stakeholders. The integration of SAHAM Finances is progressing well. In addition, Sanlam shareholders approved the package of B-BBEE transactions, including an equity raising, at the extraordinary general meeting held on 12 December 2018. Our plan to implement these transactions this year remains on track.”

Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) net result from financial services declined by 5%, largely due to the impact of new growth initiatives and dampened market conditions. Excluding the new initiatives, SPF’s contribution was 1% down on 2017 due to the major impact that the weak equity market performance in South Africa had on fund-based fee income.

SPF’s new business sales increased by 4%, an overall satisfactory result under challenging conditions. Sanlam Sky’s new business increased by an exceptional 71%. Strong growth of 13% in the traditional individual life channel was augmented by the Capitec Bank credit life new business recognised in the first half of 2018, and strong demand for the new Capitec Bank funeral product. The Recurring premium and Strategic Business Development business units also achieved strong growth of 20%, supported by the acquisition of BrightRock in 2017. Glacier new business grew marginally by 1%. Primary sales onto the Linked Investment Service Provider (LISP) platform improved by 5%, an acceptable result given the pressure on investor confidence in the mass affluent market. This was however, offset by lower sales of wrap funds and traditional life products.

The strong growth in new business volumes at Sanlam Sky had a major positive effect on SPF’s VNB growth, which increased by 7% (14% on a comparable basis).

Sanlam Emerging Markets (SEM) grew its net result from financial services by 14%. Excluding the impact of corporate activity, earnings were marginally up on 2017 (up 8% excluding the increased new business strain).

New business volumes at SEM increased by 20%. Namibia performed well, increasing new business volumes by 22% despite weak economic conditions. Both life and investment new business grew strongly. Botswana underperformed with the main detractor from new business growth being the investment line of business, which declined by 24%. This line of business is historically more volatile in nature.

The new business growth in the Rest of Africa portfolio was 68% largely due to corporate activity relating to SAHAM Finances, with the East Africa portfolio underperforming.

The Indian insurance businesses continued to perform well, achieving double-digit growth in both life and general insurance in local currency. The Malaysian businesses are finding some traction after a period of underperformance, increasing their overall new business contribution by 3%. New business production is not yet meeting expectations, but the mix of business improved at both businesses.

SEM’s VNB declined by 3% (up 6% on a consistent economic basis and excluding corporate activity). The relatively low growth on a comparable basis is largely attributable to the new business underperformance in East Africa.

Sanlam Investment Group’s (SIG) overall net result from financial services declined by 6%, attributable to lower performance fees at the third party asset manager in South Africa, administration costs incurred for system upgrades in the wealth management business and lower earnings from equity-backed financing transactions at Sanlam Specialised Finance. The other businesses did well to grow earnings, despite the pressure on funds under management due to lower investment markets.

New business volumes declined by 13% mainly due to market volatility and low investor confidence in South Africa. Institutional new inflows remained weak for the full year, while retail inflows also slowed down significantly after a more positive start to the year. The international businesses, UK, attracted strong new inflows (up 57%).

Sanlam Corporate’s net result from financial services increased by 4%, with the muted growth caused by a continuation of high group risk claims experience. Mortality and disability claims experience weakened further in the second half of the year, which is likely to require more rerating of premiums in 2019. The administration units turned profitable in 2018, a major achievement. The healthcare businesses reported satisfactory double-digit growth in earnings, while the Absa Consultants and Actuaries business made a pleasing contribution of R39 million.

New business volumes in life insurance more than doubled, reflecting an exceptional performance. Single premiums grew by 109%, while recurring premiums increased by a particularly satisfactory 56%.

The good growth in recurring and single premium business, combined with modelling improvements, supported a 64% (71% on a comparable economic basis) increase in the cluster’s VNB contribution.

Following a year of major catastrophe events in 2017, Santam experienced a relatively benign claims environment in 2018. Combined with acceptable growth in net earned premiums, it contributed to a 37% increase in gross result from financial services (41% after tax and non-controlling interest). The conventional insurance book achieved an underwriting margin of 9% in 2018 (6% in 2017).

As at 31 December 2018, discretionary capital amounted to a negative R3.7 billion before allowance for the planned B-BBEE share issuance. A number of capital management actions during 2018 affected the balance of available discretionary capital, including the US$1 billion (R13 billion) SAHAM Finances transaction. Cash proceeds from the B-BBEE share issuance will restore the discretionary capital portfolio to between R1 billion and R1.5 billion depending on the final issue price within the R74 to R86 price range approved by shareholders.

Looking forward, the Group said economic growth in South Africa would likely remain weak in the short to medium term future, and would continue to impact efforts to accelerate organic growth. The outlook for economic growth in other regions where the Group operates is more promising. Recent acquisitions such as the SAHAM transaction should also support operational performance going forward.

“We remain focused on executing our strategy. We are confident that we have the calibre of management and staff to prudently navigate the anticipated challenges going forward,” Mr Kirk concluded.

Details of the results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2018 are available at www.sanlam.com.