English: Cyber dialogue summary for 2 December 2011, Gender and the workplace

Date: December 6, 2011
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Cyber dialogue summary

Gender and the workplace

Date: 2 December 2011

Theme: Gender and the workplace

Facilitator: Saeanna Chingamuka (GL GMDC Manager)









Male colleagues should stop calling female counterparts names like darling, sweetie pie, honeybee, lovely eyes” and be professional by using their official names.” À“ Kenya

“It is very difficult Kubi but we need to continue speaking about it so that the victims can come to understand that it is something that they can open up and also we need to assure the victims of serious protection against their abuser.” À“ Zambia

“Women and men need to join hands and raise awareness in their communities.” À“ Swaziland

“We should establish National Councils on Sexual Harassment and a national registry of sexual harassers.” À“ South Africa

Question 1: What do you think is sexual harassment?

  • When a male boss pats your back every time he gives you instructions is that sexual harassment?
  • It is losing your job if you do not sleep with your boss.
  • My male boss to “Behave nicely” or I would rot in the same position forever.
  • Any form of conduct that may be sexually suggestive and makes you uncomfortable.
  • For instance, in Zambia, they are what we call traditional cousins and mostly people use that to harass either men or women, for it is part of traditional joke.
  • Sexual harassment is a male or female using their femininity to force one into sex without their consent. A man or woman may use their power in the office to harass or frustrate their juniors into sex through blackmail.

Question 2: How prevalent is sexual harassment in your country?

  • In Zimbabwe, it is highly prevalent and not much is being done to correct this.
  • The problem is definition of sexual harassment, they do not think that is a problem…they need to be sensitised.
  • This is because of the shortage of jobs on the job market; women are taken advantage of because they want to protect their jobs.
  • It is not easy to report sexual harassment because you can easily be sacked. One day my boss showed up at my house carrying a bottle of wine. The office driver who knew house brought him. I had to pretend I was very ill and asked him to drop me at the Hospital.
  • I am from Nairobi Kenya. The media are sexually harassed and female writers are expected to sleep with the editors for their stories to be placed on the page or to be given good assignments.

Question 3: What are the challenges in proving sexual harassment and reporting?

  • Even when people are sensitised the law is not doing much to help survivors especially in workplaces.
  • There is not not much being done as women are said to bring it upon themselves.
  • What is worse is that tradition allows such practices and there is no specific laws to counter act such vices.
  • In as much as women would like to speak out what protection measures are in place because we all fear victimisation from the public and workplace.
  • It is not easy to report sexual harassment due to lack of evidence because the courts of law always demand evidence.
  • A lot of harassment is not public so it is that much harder to have witnesses.
  • It is not easy to report and but maybe proving sometimes can be easy. Reporting there are some many consequences that the person that has reported go through among them not to be believed by people around her and be shunned. Sometimes you even become a black sheep of the group just because you reported a sexual harassment incident.
  • In workplaces if one reports the boss or a workmate for sexual harassment it is viewed as if that person just wants the boss to be fired so that herself can be promoted and this has been going on for a long time without any mitigation
  • I think the trauma people go through to get justice affects the number of people that come forward.
  • In some workplaces, the structures are there but there are non-functional instead the same structures more likely to be on the side the boss who is harassing than protection the complainant.
  • The challenge with reporting sexual harassment is, after you are sacked, who pays your rent.

Question 4: How can we raise awareness and address sexual harassment more effectively?

  • The law to be in place itself does not help, civil society organisations and media have to take initiative and educate the community.
  • We need to carry out massive sensitization and educational programmes especially in rural areas where such traditions are still rife
  • Women should be assertive and speak out when sexually harassed.
  • Sensitisation sessions should include both males and females
  • We also need to educate communities on their role of whistle blowing when it comes to sexual harassment because there are times when they are supposed to report such but they just keep quite on account that they are not the ones who are affecting it is their neighbour’s child.
  • Empowerment workshops encourage women to speak out.
  • Educating women and men about their rights so that they are able to tell when it is sexual harassment and what they are supposed to do if they find themselves in such a situation
  • We also need to lobby and advocate for sexual harassment workplace policies.
  • Having policies and making sure that these policies are implemented. They should not be just written policies but they should be practised within the women and stiff measures should be taken if people go against these policies.
  • Having policies that penalise offenders.
  • We should also sensitize MP’s and Members of the Councils so that it can be easier to enter to the communities.
  • I think television cameras should be placed in all offices by Human Resource Departments.
  • We need to push this agenda at SADC level.
  • We should also fight the levels of poverty because as Omwa has said poverty has forced people to be victims of harassment.
  • I think it is important for a woman to maintain their dignity and fight for their rights. Ask for advice. You can make a difference.

Question 5: What role can the media play in raising awareness on sexual harassment?

  • Media can help by making women aware of their rights.
  • I think the media can help with publicising protection laws and advocating for those laws.
  • The media can help other sectors by leading by example. They should have sexual harassment policies.
  • The media can also help to popularise in country policies and law on sexual harassment and other related cases.
  • The media can still play a major role in sensitising the public on their rights. A manual on what exactly sexual violence entails should be distributed to the media houses so that they inform people what is sexual harassment and what is not. When the Boss says you are the only one who can make his tea and he always wants the tea after five, something is not quite right there
  • More sensitisation through media, music, documentary programmes and other face-to-face sessions within the community.
  • I think we should have local soap operas on television stations to educate the public. Scriptwriters should take up the challenge. Look at the scene in my friend’s office where she has to sit on the male Boss’s lap when taking notes. She is an orphan and pays fees for her two brothers so she has to accept the harassment.
  • I do community sensitization through theatre in Swaziland on gender issues.


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