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With She Thrives, group censures workplace violence, sexual harassment

By Omiko Awa
28 February 2021   |   3:38 am
Last week, rape, gender inequality, sexual harassment and other issues that concern the girl-child and women witnessed an upward swing as high network women...

Last week, rape, gender inequality, sexual harassment and other issues that concern the girl-child and women witnessed an upward swing as high network women, including the former Minister of Education and Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, converged on zoom platform to discuss women’s safety in workplace.

Organised by African Women on Board (AWB), an African women-led independent not-for-profit organisation dedicated to reshaping the future for African women and girls globally, the discussants explaining the concept of workplace said it goes beyond to the corporate organisations to include any place a woman is legitimately engaged to carry out her economic activities.

Aside from the discourse, the group later launched, ‘She Thrives’ – A Podcast Series on workplace violence and safety.

Taking the first part of the topic, which is on Sexual Harassment In The Workplace, the Chief Executive Officer, MTN Benin Republic, Uche Ofodile, noted that sexual harassment in the workplace is pervasive in Nigeria as in most parts of the world.

According to her, Nigeria’s social construct and institutional norms appear to normalise and trivialise harassment, saying the nation’s health, legal and law enforcement agencies make it appear near impossible to prove that the victim was actually harassed.

Ofodile observed that because victims are, most times, mortified and stigmatised, they end up not reporting their cases to the appropriate authorities or even talk about it in the open. She noted that this culture of silence and secrecy encourage the crime to go unabated.

Ofodile disclosed that sexual harassment could happen whenever there is a power differential, adding that even senior women are not exempted.

The MTN boss revealed that there are many cases of male and, sometimes, female regulators harassing the staff of regulated entities in return for approvals, saying this is very sad and should be discouraged.

Ezekwesili called on the girl-child and women to always speak out whenever they are harassed, reassuring them that proper action will be taken if they do so. She noted that the days where making such issues public would not lead to any action, but make the situation worse in the form of victimization is gone.

“It is the don’t talk culture that facilitate the continued perpetuation of gender violence in the workplace. This Podcast will help to shed light on the issue and also help to create conversation and engagement about it. A lot of people do not even know that gender violence is an issue at work places,” she said.

Disclosing that workplace violence and sexual harassment have inhibited many women from advancing in their careers in the cooperate organisations, while some have been forced to resign, AWB Chair, Nkiru Balonwu revealed that the Podcast was created to confront the culture of looking away and also to sensitise the public about how widespread workplace violence against women is and its effects on women and the society.

According to her, the platform encourages women to speak out, come out and say their owing stories of how workplace violence is affecting them and how they are either coping with the situation or how they have been able to overcome it.

“This podcast was created to sensitise the public and policymakers about how widespread workplace violence against women is and its effects on women and our society. It was created so women could come out and say, ‘Here is what I have faced and I am tired of facing it,’” she said.

Premiered on Wednesday, February 10, on Beat 99.9 FM from 1:00pm to 1:30pm and 4:00 pm on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify among others, the 10-episode series was anchored by Omoye Uzamere, one of Nigeria’s notable actresses.

She Thrives will feature stories from women who have faced violence within their work environments. The podcast will also serve as avenue for thought leaders to give their perspectives to the issue. The series would be aired at the same times for 9 weeks on the same platforms.

For the Programme manager, Inem King, the primary objective of the podcast is to inform the public about the existence and prevalence of workplace violence against women, and detail its adverse effects on families, women, businesses, societies and economies.

She also noted that the 10-episode series, which will run for nine weeks in different platforms, would serve as a springboard for the recommendations to relevant stakeholders whose policies, rules and regulations can mitigate the menace and foster healthy relationship in the community and workplace.

Charting a way forward for the girl-child and women in workplace and the community, King further disclosed that the series will help stakeholders — women, men, regulatory bodies, policymakers, family heads among others — to better understand the situation and tackle violence against women by coming out with policies that can improve workplace relationship and working conditions across the continent.

Contributors including, the Country Head, MasterCard Foundation, Chidinma Lawanson; and the International Programme Director, Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice; Regional Director for Southern Africa at Ford Foundation, Nicolette Naylor, called for the continuous enlightening of the people to sensitise them about the various forms of workplace violence against women and the need to revisit some of our cultural practices with the aim of revamping them to reflect current realities.

They called on AWB to persist in its role of mainstreaming the voices of the girl-child and women and fast-tracking their trajectory into the leadership roles.