The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, with special responsibility for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D., gave the keynote address, ahead of International Women’ Day today (7th March 2019) at the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) conference in Liberty Hall.
Late last year the Minister brought together higher education representatives, students unions and other stakeholders for a workshop on consent and tackling sexual violence in third level education. She later established a working group who are due to report shortly. A representative from NWCI sat on the working group. Tara Brown, Project Coordinator for Ending Sexual Harassment and Violence in Third Level Education (ESTHE), a European funded project was joined by Dr Louise Crowley, Bystander Invention, (UCC) and Dr Pádraig MacNeela (NUI Galway) as well as Dr Sinead King (Kent University) and USI representatives.
The Minister stated she has received the report from the working group and is looking forward to launching it in the coming weeks, “Harassment and assault are experiences too common for many of our third level students. Non-consenting experiences encompass sexual violence, rape, and assault. I look forward to launching my initiative in the coming weeks, where our overriding ambition is to embed a cultural change within our higher education institutions so we create safer and more respectful campuses. It is important that we assist our institutions in following best practice, development of their college policies, and working collaboratively in addressing sexual harassment and assault. The working group has devised a roadmap for the implementation of a framework and I am currently working with my officials on finalising the details.”
The Minister continued, “I want to ensure that young adults are supported to achieve positive sexual health, while also challenging and tackling the unacceptable problem of sexual and gender-based harassment. We all have a duty of care to our students, to protect them from sexual harassment, assault and safety from the fear and threat of it.”
In conclusion the Minister said, “What is important about events like this morning, especially on the eve of International Women’s Day is we are sharing of best practice and strategic collaboration on consent and that can only help eradicate the problem.”