Sexual Harassment Education Should Begin At School Level

Khethi Ngwenya MD of SchoolMedia 15
Khethi Ngwenya MD of SchoolMedia 15

Khethi Ngwenya – Managing Director of SchoolMedia, as well as the Acting Deputy Curator of the Johannesburg Global Shapers Forum closed the recent Difficult Topics in the Workplace event, 2017.  In light of recent and continued media reports about sexual harassment taking place in the workplace, Khethi found it necessary to share his opinion on the topic.  Both women and men may experience sexual harassment in their workplace which can negatively affect their work performance and well being.  Sexual harassment undermines a sense of personal dignity and can cause physical and emotional illness.

Young girls and boys should be educated on what’s acceptable in terms of how they should be treated and how they should treat others.  Sexual consent is often misunderstood by young people.  Schools are social institutions outside homes with which almost every child has consistent contact, so it is important to instil sexual harassment education in children while they are still young.  Some children don’t know or understand what sexual harassment is which may lead to them thinking that it’s okay for someone to do something to them without their consent.

Khethi’s top take outs from the event include:

  • “Some people grow up not knowing what abuse is.  In most cases, people think that it’s normal for them to be mistreated.  Nhlanhla Mokoena – Executive Director of POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse), said at the event that she only started understanding what sexual harassment was after joining POWA.  This just goes to show that there are people who only start learning about sexual harassment once they become part of a workplace, which may be too late.  POWA is a “feminist, women’s rights organisation that provides both services, and engages in advocacy in order to ensure the realisation of women’s rights and thereby improve women’s quality of life.”
  • “Sexual harassment is not often spoken about because sometimes society blames the victims for what happens to them.  People will ask questions like ‘Why were you in that place with that person”?  Questions like these can lead victims to think the sexual assault might have been their own fault.  Some people are scared to confront the harasser which should be the first step to dealing with sexual harassment.  Stephanie Hunter – President of Phoenix Risen, said that it is important for victims to speak out and ask their harassers why they did what they did to them.  Phoenix Risen is an organisation which enhances the dignity and quality of life for children placed in the foster care community by eliminating emotional, material, and societal barriers that are consequence of abuse, neglect, and displacement.”
  • “While it is imperative for people in the workplace to be educated about sexual harassment, it should be starting in schools.  It is important for children to know when they are being violated and that they need to tell someone about it.  One day, they will be professionals in the workplace and by then, they will know how to deal with being sexually harassed.”

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