» Speaking out for gender equality in education: Evernice Munando
04.07.2017 - Education Sector

Speaking out for gender equality in education: Evernice Munando

© FSNT - Evernice Munando, Female Students Network Trust, 2016 laureate for UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education

On the eve of UNESCO’s International Jury Meeting for the 2nd edition of the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education, UNESCO talks to Evernice Munando, Founder and Executive Director of the Female Students Network Trust in Zimbabwe.

The Female Students Network Trust (FSNT) was one of the two 2016 laureates for the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education for its initiative empowering tertiary education female students through leadership development and mentorship programmes.

Why did you decide to do the work you do, and to be a gender equality champion?

I do the work that I am doing because it is my passion. I have strived to pursue my education despite the various challenges I experienced, such as gender-based violence and patriarchy. I grew up in a family of 9 children (4 girls, 5 boys) and preference was always given to boys. Growing up in this context, I became the only girl in my family to reach this level of education. I decided that it would be vital that I become an advocate and a champion of gender equality, so that I can inspire other girls to show them that anything is possible with education.

What has it meant for you to be Laureate of the 2016 Prize for Women and Girls’ Education?

It re-energized my passion and renewed my strength. Being recognized at the global level highlighted the work that I am doing to change the lives of girls and change mind-sets, and to empower girls and women through education. I realized that through my work in Zimbabwe I am making an impact at global level, and that our organization is part of the development agenda – within the UN and Zimbabwe alike. Being a Prize Laureate put us in the spotlight and challenged us to do even more, to continue advocating for girls and women’s education and impact other girls, including those living in remote areas.

What’s next for your organization?

Through the 2016 award, I can tell you that the prize money has gone a long way. Just last week, we celebrated a woman, Melissa Thandi, who overcame the barriers of patriarchy by becoming the first female president of the Student Representative Council (SRC) in the Polytechnic College in Harare. Since its foundation in 1919, there has never been a female SRC president. This year, through our advocacy work, we managed to have several women take leadership positions. In addition, they also act as mentors, and they are motivating other girls within teacher education institutions.

In terms of access to education, our organization managed to link several students to service organizations who helped them pursue their education, for example through scholarships by the US Embassy.

Recognition by the government is also an important result. We advocate for sexual harassment policies. Last month, the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Ministry of Higher Tertiary Education  for Science, Technology and Development, launched an initial campaign on sexual harassment policy formulation. Through the prize money, we developed sexual harassment policy guidelines, which are now being used as a model to come up with meaningful sexual harassment policies in tertiary education institutions.

You are here for UNESCO’s Soft Power Today conference on Fostering Women’s Empowerment and Leadership. What advice would you give to UNESCO to further its work in the area of gender equality in education?

I would advise UNESCO to reach out to grassroots organizations such as ours. The normal set up is for UNESCO to deal with governments and National Commissions at country level, but it does not reach out to grassroots organizations. So I would advise UNESCO to also consider research-based advocacy work using statistics from the grassroots-level, so that when we are measuring the impact we are able to provide evidence on the issues  and bring this evidence to the national and international levels.

I am talking in the context of SDG 4, focusing on gender equality, empowerment and the inclusion of women and girls in education – what are the benchmarks? It is vitally important that UNESCO further supports initiatives that do evidence-based programming, so that we can really measure the impact against these benchmarks.

As for next steps, FSNT will strengthen mentorship programmes, and also venture into sexual and health reproductive education, through awareness-raising and counselling for students. FSNT wants to lobby the Government to provide such services in tertiary education.

The Female Students Network Trust (FSNT) is a non-profit, membership-based organization that works with female tertiary education students in Zimbabwe. It began in 2005 as a loose network of students at the University of Zimbabwe, and became a non-profit organization in 2010. FSNT empowers female students to take up leadership roles, and supports policy and media advocacy on issues affecting female students. became a full-fledged organisation in 2010 as a platform where female students in tertiary education institutions can interact and share experiences on the challenges they face in their day-to-day lives. FSNT works in 36 institutions in the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe.


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