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HEIR Women condemns workplace sexual harassment

By Tobi Awodipe
29 January 2022   |   1:58 am
Female-focused social enterprise, which encourages women to take on more decision making positions and venture into leadership opportunities, HEIR Women Development has shared the findings from her self investigative...

Anuli Aniebo

• Releases Research Findings

Female-focused social enterprise, which encourages women to take on more decision making positions and venture into leadership opportunities, HEIR Women Development has shared the findings from her self investigative research focused on workplace sexual harassment women suffer at a validation meeting held in Abuja.

The research is one of the activities under the project, Career Barriers and Workplace Sexual Harassment against Young Women in Abuja, with support from Ford Foundation.

According to the organisation’s founder and Executive Director, Anuli Aniebo Ola-Olaniyi, the project seeks to identify with evidential data, career barriers confronting young women with a lens into sexual harassment, which has constituted a major limiting factor to women’s career journey at workplaces and participation in leadership. 

Ola-Olaniyi said one of their major goals is to strengthen young women’s understanding and increase knowledge and awareness against sexual harassment through adequate information and knowledge, stakeholders involvement in prioritising trauma experiences and seeking to eliminate triggers as well as ramp up media action in demanding accountability from organisations without relevant workplace policy that protects young women.

“If young women are empowered with adequate tools to recognise and report sexual harassment at work, then organisations are encouraged to develop and ensure compliance with sexual harassment policies so these women will excel in their careers and leadership aspirations.”

The researcher, Dr Obianuju Nnadozie, noted that young women aged between 18 to 35 years were the target audience with 60 face-to-face interviews conducted and over 1000 partaking in the online survey. Of this number, 77 per cent reported they have faced career barriers at the workplace, including bullying/intimidation, inflexible work hours, lack of organisational support for mothers, restriction of certain roles due to gender amongst others.

From the interview, 54 per cent of women identified sexual harassment and stereotypes against women as their leading insecurities with 3 in 4 women experiencing verbal sexual harassment in the form of obscene jokes about sex, unwanted phone calls/messages, unwanted invitations of a sexual nature, unwanted physical contact and worse, rape.

From the personal interviews, most women are unwilling to share sensitive information with 55 per cent of women not fully understanding what constitutes sexual harassment. 26 per cent of women said they felt uncomfortable reporting sexual assault, stating that that abuse is mostly perpetuated by authority figures to whom such cases are supposed to be reported to as well as the fear of losing their jobs as was the fate of those who had done so in the past.

Meanwhile, 33 per cent of women said their organisations are not concerned with protecting their rights and over half of respondents having no idea what gender-based standards mean.

“1 in 2 women reported they have been sexually harassed at the work place with over 3 in 4 women reporting verbal and cyber sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is prevalent at workplace and should be addressed but most organisations have little or no measures in place to prevent or protect victims.”

The research validation meeting was attended by the Olufunke Baruwa, West Africa Project Officer for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice for Ford Foundation, Fatima Kakuri, SA, Gender to Speaker, House of Representatives, Adaora Onyechere, Head, Gender at African Union, Rinsola Abiola, women-led organizations representatives, members of the press and stakeholders.

The experts surmised that appropriate action must be taken to enlighten and empower women against sexual harassment as well as encourage organisations to strengthen existing measures and adopt best practices to address sexual harassment/career barriers at the workplace. They also recommended further engagement with the findings from the research and will hold a career development workshop in the second quarter of this year for the research participants.