Blog Nicole Mathot
Strategies to combating Violence and Harassment in the Workplace
From 19 to 23 November 2018, the gender department of the International Training Centre of the ILO organized a training on ‘Violence and Harassment in the World of Work’ in Turin. This Training Centre is part the United Nations tripartite International Labour Organization ILO. Participants from the public and private sector, employers’ organizations and trade unions from all over the world come to share experiences and learn how to recognize, tackle and remediate workplace issues related to gender.
The International Training Centre invited Nicole Mathot -senior program officer and gender focal point for CNV Internationaal- to facilitate a session on practical tools to identify and monitor harassment and violence for French speaking participants.
Gender-based violence and decent work
Violence and harassment against girls and women is described as the most systematic and widespread human rights violation in the world. Sharing experiences and strategies in Turin, with participants from different parts of the world, shows once more that no country is immune to violence.
Worldwide more than one in three women experience harassment and violence in their lifetime. Yet, in many countries no reliable data are available as victims do not report abuse because of cultural or religious barriers, fear of stigmatization, retaliation or job loss. Gender-based violence both reflects and perpetuates poverty and unequal relations between men and women and is an important obstacle to decent work.
The power of data
Madjiguene Françoise Medor, working as president of the Women’s Committee for CNV’s Senegalese trade union partner UDTS, shares her experiences on the identification of violence: “Violence against girls and women is pandemic in Senegal. However, the problem is hardly discussed. As there are no statistics available, we decided to conduct our own survey to better understand the scope and the nature of the issue. Also, numbers and data are powerful tools to raise awareness and to foster change.
Safe and enabling environment
Medor: "Informing women on the objective of the survey, and asking their explicit consent to use the data, is a mandatory first step. Also, it is crucial to create a safe environment by establishing a relation of trust with the women and by guaranteeing confidentiality. In addition to this, knowing how to ask questions related to this taboo subject has proved to be very important to identifying the problem”.
The results of the survey have been integrated in a press release to raise awareness and spark debate. Currently, the Women’s Committee is piloting a project based on the information gathered in the survey. Medor argues that “the fact that the current (and former) president of UDTS is a woman has been instrumental to putting, and keeping, the issue on the agenda of my trade union”.
Breaking the silence: #HearMeToo campaign
As in many countries, it takes a lot of courage for women in Senegal to speak out and seek help. In addition to this, a lack of a clear definition of sexual harassment and violence in the law hinders legal redress. A new binding ILO convention would bridge the current international legal gap and facilitate strategies to prevent abuse as well as enable access of survivors to legal redress.
The ILO training precedes the ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’, a global campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. Theme of the 2018 Campaign is #HearMeToo. For many women speaking out is not yet possible and can have serious, even fatal, consequences.