Director for Policy and Research at the Bureau of Women’s Affairs (BWA), Jennifer Williams, has advised women, who were being sexually harassed in the workplace to report such cases.
“Object immediately and clearly if you are being sexually harassed. Report it, put it in writing and where necessary, keep records in terms of date, time, place, and details of the incident, and speak to a supervisor or someone else in the organisation that can address the situation,” she advised.
She was speaking to some 200 female members of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, at a seminar held yesterday (March 17) at the Pollyanna Restaurant in Kingston, to mark International Women’s Day, which is commemorated on March 8.
Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs (BWA), Faith Webster, addresses female employees of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), who were in attendance at an International Women’s Day seminar, at the Pollyanna Restaurant, in Kingston, on March 17.
The event, held under the theme: ‘Women in a Man’s World’, was also in keeping with a series of workshops, being held across the public sector, to raise awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Director informed that research, conducted in 1995 and 2005, showed that sexual harassment was prevalent within the public sector.
She said that even though both men and women were subject to sexual abuse, women were more prone to be harassed than men, and that sexual harassment, like many other forms of sexual abuse, often went unreported.
Public Relations Officer for the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), District Officer Emeleo Ebanks, highlights a point, during his presentation to female members of the JFB, at an International Women’s Day seminar, organised by the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, at the Pollyanna Restaurant, in Kingston, on March 17.
According to Mrs. Williams, sexual harassment consisted of unwelcome and unwanted physical, verbal, or non-verbal advances of a sexual nature. “Sexual harassment is all about power, and so we realise that women are very vulnerable where this is concerned, because sometimes, women lack the power in a number of areas,” she pointed out.
Executive Director of the BWA, Faith Webster, noted that women have come a long way, from not being able to vote, or granted maternity leave, to gaining some of the top positions in the workforce, including some areas traditionally dominated by men.
She noted however that covert gender discrimination was still evident within the workplace and must be addressed.
The BWA’s series of public education and sensitisation workshops on sexual harassment, which got underway at the Ministry of Health and Environment on June 16, 2008, is being funded by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
Sessions have so far been held at 15 ministries, departments and agencies, with the next session slated for April 9 at the Labour and Social Security Ministry.
The objective of the workshops is to enable public sector workers to gain a better understanding of sexual harassment and to become more sensitive to and aware of the problem. The sessions are also geared at enabling managers and workers to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate conduct in the workplace in order to prevent sexual harassment.
Workers are provided with information about their rights and responsibilities in the workplace, and the development of workplace sexual harassment policies and programmes. A key objective of the workshops is to ensure the collection, documentation, monitoring and evaluation of information and best practices on sexual harassment issues, and complaint results.
The Bureau of Women’s Affairs, which is celebrating 35 years of existence is the agency of government charged with promoting policies, programmes and projects, which will enable women to become integrally involved in Jamaica’s social, cultural and economic development.
It acts as a catalyst to ensure that the government addresses the problems that confront women, given the impact of patriarchy and sexism.