Participant at Dandelion Kenya's community event on gender based shares his message

Ending Sexual Harassment at Work

Post first published on Girls Globe by Catherine Nyambura

According to the Huffington Post, 1 in 3 women have been sexually harassed at the workplace. The article also suggests that only 29% of women who are harassed actually report it.According to UN figures, between 40 and 50% of women in the European Union experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact, verbal suggestions or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace. In Asia-Pacific countries, it is 30 to 40%.

​Sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women  normalize a culture of sexual violence however subtle or overt, and creates a very blatantly unequal work force environment that could affect how leaders execute hiring, layoffs or salary cuts decisions.  When women and girls feel uncomfortable, have to miss work, or generally engage less because of fear and intimidation, productivity in the work place and mental health are affected. No matter where you are in the world, this persists despite different cultural norms and laws. 

Leadership Plays a Large Role

Leadership has a lot to do with this. Servant leaders will work to develop a violent free and equal environment where women and men, boys and girls, feel comfortable working together. A servant leader will also be keen to nurture power dynamics that do not sustain gender blind structures. A servant leader, being cognizant of the role and positioning of people within the team as the ultimate competitive advantage, works towards a nuanced, deliberate understanding and analysis of gender dynamics in the workforce. This is the first step towards tackling sexual harassment, especially given the high number of instances of sexual harassment that go unreported because of fear.

It is not enough to understand power dynamics or work hard to establish a violence free and gender responsive work environment. There is still a need to establish structures, systems and policies that will create a redress mechanism for victims. Such can be achieved through embracing competency based leadership that will intensively lay out indicators for sexual harassment reporting channels, and maintain and assure confidentiality to guarantee victim safety.

Beyond Leadership to Challenging Harmful Socialization Norms

Economic, class, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and racial inequalities are widespread. Inequality and especially gender inequality has led to some very interesting scenarios in the global workforce, namely, unequal labor force participation between men and women, a grossly wide gender pay gap, and rampant sexual harassment at the work place.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Kenya

Dandelion Kenya hosts a round table discussion on GBV with youth in Nakuru Photo Credit: Dandelion Kenya

We have all been nurtured and socialized in societies that have normalized certain unhealthy perceptions about gender roles. This is coupled with an overt imbalance in power relationships between males and females. Leaders have to be very deliberate to go beyond socialization when acting to tackle issues such as sexual harassment because it is easy to fall back into what has been normalized. Leaders have to be courageous to tackle sexual harassment because of the stigma and silence that has been associated with the issue.

Leaders need to see their role and position as requiring them to be accountable to all at the workplace including women and girls. The accountability stretches beyond financial to teammates’ well-being.

We all have a responsibility to breed violence free societies!

Catherine is a Mandela Fellow 2016, Women Deliver Young Leader and member of Youth RISE International working group. Catherine is a passionate young African feminist activist with over 7 years of experience in advancing gender equality, youth development and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of sustainable development through movement building, digital and social media, policy advocacy and capacity building for young women and adolescents girls. Catherine is currently Deputy Director at Dandelion Kenya, and sits on the SDGs Kenya Forum coordination committee. Catherine has engaged with various global and regional policy processes such as ICPD Beyond 2014 review, Beijing +20 and the post 2015 development agenda. She co-authored the article ‘Leave No One Behind; Will African Women be left behind in the post 2015 development agenda ,an article published on the East African Business Monthly in February 2015. Catherine launched the #SRHRDialogues, an online advocacy and awareness raising platform on SRHR and #YAFDialogues, an online platform anticipated to be a permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of an African feminist dialogue 2015 in Accra. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1

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