International Women's Day: Avon, Diageo and M&S join CARE in calling for a strong and inclusive ILO Convention

by 08th Mar 2019
Participants at the #March4Women event in London signing postcards to Alok Sharma, UK Minister for Employment, to demand a strong ILO convention Participants at the #March4Women event in London signing postcards to Alok Sharma, UK Minister for Employment, to demand a strong ILO convention

This International Women’s Day, CARE International and our corporate partners Avon, Diageo and M&S are commited to calling for a strong and progressive ILO Convention to end violence and harassment in the world of work. This letter is co-signed by Amy Greene (Avon), Mairead Nayager (Diageo), Fiona Sadler (M&S) and Laurie Lee (CARE International UK).

As the world marks International Women’s Day, we are reminded of the great strides that have been made towards achieving gender equality. However, we also recognise that much more needs to be done to truly achieve equality as envisaged in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We, the undersigned representatives of some of the world’s leading businesses, publicly reaffirm our commitment to use our access and resources to support progress towards gender equality.

One of the biggest obstacles to equality is gender-based violence, which disproportionally affects women and girls. The World Health Organisation estimates that as many as one in three women around the world will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime.

Violence and harassment also persist in the workplace. 40% of women in the UK have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace. Finding ways to prevent and better respond to gender-based violence is high on the agenda of many businesses: not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because there is a clear business case for taking action. Violence and harassment reduces productivity, increases employee cost and turnover and creates reputational risk. Productivity losses due to sexual harassment in the Cambodian garment industry amounts to USD 89 million every year.

To truly move the needle on ending gender-based violence we need global action. Over one-third of countries still do not have any laws prohibiting sexual harassment at work. An international standard is needed which will compel governments and employers around the world to provide workers with protection against violence and harassment.

That is why we call on our governments and representative employer organisations to support the new International Labour Organisation Convention to end violence and harassment in the world of work. A strong and progressive ILO Convention and accompanying Recommendation are needed as the first step to building global accountability on this issue. The final round of negotiations on this Convention will take place at the International Labour Conference in June. We urge all parties to the Conference to increase their efforts to reach agreement on a robust and inclusive new international labour standard which will help eradicate this unacceptable behaviour.

ILO convention letter signatories

Laurie Lee

I joined CARE in August 2014, because I believe strongly in our focus on economic development, gender equality and people holding governments accountable. My focus at CARE is on ensuring we have the best people to do the job we do, to support our teams on the ground in over 70 developing countries, and to ensure we continuously improve our ability to monitor the impact of our work, and learn how to do it even better.  

Prior to CARE I worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for seven years, advising them on development policy issues in Europe and Africa. Before that I worked for the British government. I managed British development programmes in South Africa and Afghanistan. He worked in 10 Downing Street to prepare the G8 Gleneagles Summit on Africa in 2005. And I ran the DFID Trade Policy Unit until 2008.

One good thing I've read

One of CARE’s goals is to help the 2 billion people – including 1.1 billion women – without access to financial services, to get them. This great and easy book, Portfolios of the poor: How the world's poor live on $2 a day, by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford and Orlanda Ruthven, explains why there’s no such thing as living 'hand to mouth'. The poorer you are, the more you need financial management tools.

Email: Lee@careinternational.org

Twitter: @lauriejlee