Our impact, their voices

Shoring up the foundation for a safe, inclusive learning environment

Training to create a convenient platform to report sexual harassment on campus and a capacity-building exchange to the UK made a huge difference in one Indonesian woman’s life.

Article | 31 January 2023
PPNS students prepare to distribute flyers promoting the KESMA Hotline at the campus.  © ILO
SURABAYA, Indonesia (ILO News)--Rina Sandora was content as a lecturer at a higher education institution in the port city of Surabaya in eastern Java, but hearing about instances of sexual harassment and violence at campuses throughout the country prompted her to sign up for a task force to prevent such behaviour

“My main motivation is to contribute to creating a campus that is safe and comfortable, free from sexual harassment and violence, and to maintain human dignity, especially protecting vulnerable groups such as women, those living on the poverty line and people with disabilities,” said the lecturer.

“Several cases of sexual harassment and violence at educational institutes have been reported in Indonesian media, with the vast majority of them involving bullying through verbal abuse. This makes me sad because I did not expect this could happen in an educational environment. It is important to prioritize prevention so these cases do not continue to occur.”

Ms Sandora is a lecturer in the Ship Engineering Department at the Politeknik Perkapalan Negeri Surabaya (PPNS) and serves as Chair of the Internal Control Unit, as well as a Gender Focal Point and a member of the Task Force for Prevention and Handling of Sexual Violence at PPNS. PPNS is a partner of the ILO-UK Skills for Prosperity Programme in Indonesia (SfP-Indonesia).

The task force helped develop the KESMA Hotline (KESMA is short for Student Welfare) to enable students to report incidents of harassment or violence. The service is hosted through a WhatsApp platform administered through the Student Executive Board.

Rina Sandora promotes the WhatsApp Hotline at a workshop at PPNS. © ILO
“The hotline gives students easy access to file complaints because some of them are more comfortable reporting incidents to their peers than an official task force,” said Ms Sandora.

The hotline is a service for students of the PPNS aiming to serve as a forum for students with questions or complaints. In addition to reporting incidents of sexual harassment and violence, students can ask questions about mental health and academic matters.

Students wanting to raise a concern can send a WhatsApp message to the hotline which maintains confidentiality and forwards the complaint to the task force.

“There have been six reports of harassment since the task force was formed in 2022. This could mean there is less harassment taking place,” she said.

The WhatsApp platform was chosen because students are familiar with it and it offers service 24 hours a day, with a speedy response time, said Ms Sandora.

Some of them are more comfortable reporting incidents to their peers than an official task force. "

Rina Sandora, PPNS lecturer
PPNS is one of four polytechnics in Indonesia matched with universities in the United Kingdom under SfP-Indonesia. Funded by the UK government, this project aims to improve Indonesia’s skills development policies and systems as well as enhance the employment prospects of young women and men, including those from disadvantaged groups, seeking a career in the maritime industry.

Ms Sandora was one of 35 delegates from the four Indonesian polytechnics to visit their UK institutional mentors in October and November as part of a capacity-building study visit. Delegates from PPNS visited their counterparts University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK to learn about UK maritime education development including good practices in gender equality, disability and social inclusion (GEDSI) field.

Although shocked by the weather – “We were in there in late autumn, so it was very cold for me; the low was 2 degrees Celsius, which seemed extreme” – she found the experience heartwarming and inspirational.

“The University of Strathclyde campus is very responsive to the GEDSI issue, with good facilities and infrastructure, especially for people with disabilities. This is very inspiring as we try to make PPNS a more inclusive campus,” said Ms Sandora.

“We learned many new insights and some good practices that are inspiring, especially in terms of granting access to people with disabilities in order to create an inclusive campus. One example is the disability and well-being service consulting room available on the Strathclyde campus.”

The collaboration between PPNS and the University of Strathclyde, was established through SfP-Indonesia, and covers curriculum development and capacity building for leaders and teaching staff.

The partnership is designed to develop an enriched student experience through the demonstration of guest and industry lectures and project-based learning, as well as inputs relating to gender and social inclusion measures, digital teaching and learning, and institutional industry engagement. It is planned that following the programme, the partnership will continue to support research collaboration and student and teacher mobility exchanges.

While SfP-Indonesia is clearly making a tangible difference, the task ahead remains huge. ILO data indicates there is still much room for improvement in gender equality and social inclusion in the maritime sector. Women wishing to pursue and advance a career in the sector often face discrimination, with some recruiters demonstrating the preference to employ men; and practical barriers to employment, for example many ships not providing separate facilities for women.

“The ILO-UK Skills for Prosperity programme has provided extraordinary support,” Ms Sandora said. But on campus and onboard ship, much more needs to be done.