Rollins PhD Students to Battle Campus Sexual Harassment in Pakistan

November 13, 2023


By Shelby Crosier

Two second-year PhD students in global health and development, Zarmeen Shakil and Irina Bergenfeld, were recently awarded a $45,000 grant from the Global College Campus Violence Prevention Network. This funding will be used to support a collaboration with universities in Pakistan to address campus sexual harassment.

Why This Matters

Sexual harassment is common on university campuses in Pakistan, and it negatively affects the health, well-being, and academic achievement of women and non-binary individuals. However, this issue is understudied in the Pakistani context. More research is needed to learn about how people define sexual harassment, what university students’ experiences with sexual harassment are, and how universities could adapt sexual harassment interventions to fit their needs. This project aims to fill that gap by working closely with university students, faculty, and staff.

“One of the nice things about this grant is that it really emphasizes student involvement and having a student advisory board as part of the study design,” says Bergenfeld. “The students will be involved in the process of selecting and adapting the interventions to the specific needs of their campus.”

About the Project

Shakil and Bergenfeld will work with universities across Pakistan, starting with Aga Khan University, for two years on a two-phase study. In phase one, they will conduct interviews and surveys with university students, faculty, and staff to better understand their experiences with campus sexual harassment. In phase two, they will work with those same individuals to plan interventions. The team aims to work with a group of that captures the diversity of gender identities, abilities, ethnicities, and cultures that may experience sexual harassment in different ways and have different needs. Their hope is that, through this work, university policies in Pakistan can change to be more protective of students.

“Because of the weak implementation of policies targeting sexual harassment, reporting often leads to some sort of punishment for the victim,” says Shakil. “I want to look at how to target that in universities so we can make reporting and disclosure safer for students.”