As some of the 19 who made submissions to the Equal Education (EE) inquiry, we note the release of Professor Rashida Manjoo’s report, and strongly commend her principled and careful analysis of all the issues at hand. Manjoo found that:
- the Inquiry was investigative in nature; that the inquiry panel did not have judicial or quasi-judicial powers; that the Panel was not mandated to make findings of guilt or innocence/exoneration;
- the complainants experienced EE’s organisational culture to be patriarchal, hierarchical and silencing;
- when patterns of conduct, such as sexual harassment, intimidation and silencing are not addressed, impunity becomes the norm;
- that the experiences of the 19 complainants assisted in shaping her recommendations for EE;
- the rejection by Satchwell/Langa of the 19 complainants’ statements was not in line with a victim-centred approach;
- the Panel’s shift away from the terms of reference, which it was entitled to do, created confusion and allowed for procedural changes that impacted negatively on the victims’ rights to make informed decisions about their participation; and
- despite the failures arising from the terms of reference, there are patterns of conduct within EE which are worthy of further interrogation.
The Inquiry has been taxing and time consuming for many of us and we are relieved that the Manjoo report has been able to offer us some sense of justice and closure. We would like to publicly thank the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) for their dedicated work on our case. They have been model feminist legal advisors and have received no additional compensation for representing us.
We would also like to express our concern about the timing of the Satchwell/Langa and Manjoo reports. Manjoo notes that she asked Judge Satchwell for a timeline that would allow for the release of one report, including all three panelists’ views. Unfortunately, Satchwell did not allow for this, resulting in the findings of the Satchwell/Langa report dominating the public narrative. Like Professor Manjoo we seriously regret this and note with concern the speed with which the Satchwell/Langa report was made public.
We believe that Manjoo’s recommendations offer EE guidelines for sincere reflection. She suggests that EE a) engage in an internal transformative justice process; b) consider the WLC submissions on how to establish victim-centred inquiries and ensure that these offer procedural certainty; c) engage in dialogue with the 19 and the WLC; d) reconsider its policies and systems for reporting sexual violence and harassment; and e) consider how policies can engage with the intersection between power, status and privilege.
We note with dismay that EE’s public statement weighs each report equally. We ask EE to a) admit that the Satchwell/Langa report amounted to a failure, b) to decisively reject Satchwell/Langa’s findings of ‘exoneration’, c) to condemn the intimidation and bullying that many of us and our allies have faced.
Our respective associations with EE began because we believe in the work that they do. However, EE’s successes cannot come at the expense of women who have been sexually harassed, marginalised and silenced. We made our submissions in the hope that they would encourage EE and other social justice organisations to re-examine their organisational culture. Too many talented women have been lost to EE and we hope that the Manjoo report will help EE reflect on how it can shift this dynamic.