The Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistan and Oxfam in Pakistan have agreed to collaborate for successful implementation of HEC’s Policy on ‘Protection against Sexual Harassment in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)’ and address the incidents of sexual harassment in the Pakistani universities.
In this connection, a Letter of Intent (LoI) was signed by Adviser (Administration and Coordination) HEC, Mr. Awais Ahmed and Country Director Oxfam, Syed Shahnawaz Ali during a ceremony held at a local hotel in Islamabad on Wednesday.
The ceremony was also attended by Director General (HRD) HEC Ms. Aayesha Ikram, Consultant Policy and Legal Affairs HEC Dr. Daud Munir, Director University Advancement HEC Ms. Dur-e-Shahwar, Programme Manager (Gender Justice) Oxfam, Ms. Seher Afsheen and Gender Specialist Oxfam, Mr. Sartaj Abbasi.
The purpose of this collaboration is to work jointly and provide technical support to universities for establishment of an effective Complaint Response Mechanism to address incidents of sexual harassment and abuse. The two sides will oversee the initiatives and capacity building of the staff of Inquiry Committees involved in handling complaints of sexual harassment.
In his remarks, Mr. Awais Ahmed shed light on the importance of HEC’s Policy on Protection against Sexual Harassment and stressed that HEC is committed to ensuring that the university environment is equally conducive for men and women. He hoped that HEC-Oxfam collaboration will prove helpful for HEIs to effectively execute this policy.
Mr. Shahnawaz Ali appreciated HEC’s efforts to address abuse and harassment at the academic institutions. He asserted that it is responsibility of the State to ensure quality and safe education for vulnerable segment of the society. “Access to education equals access to professional settings and financial independence, which will ensure greater female participation in all segments of life,” he observed.
As per the LoI, HEC will provide technical guidance and input to Oxfam in development of the Complaint Response Mechanism framework and the training and communication materials. It will advise universities to extend necessary cooperation to Oxfam teams for establishment and strengthening of Inquiry Committees and capacity building of the relevant staff.
Oxfam will support selected universities for establishment of Complaint Response Mechanisms and strengthening of existing complaint mechanisms to address incidents of sexual harassment. It will conduct capacity building training of Inquiry Committee Members and Focal Persons for effective handling of the complaints. It will also develop relevant material for raising awareness as well as capacity building.