As the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment (HLP-WEE) has recognised, one of the major barriers to achieving women’s economic empowerment is the entrenched social and cultural norms that prevent women from reaching their full potential. Violence and sexual harassment in the workplace is one of the most serious and challenging obstacles. However, there is a major window of opportunity to change the global legal framework on this within the next few years, and governments, trade unions and companies need to get on board.
The elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls is a key recommendation in the HLP-WEE Toolkit on How to change norms in support of women’s economic empowerment. While the toolkit references a number of international conventions on women and violence (eg the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions concerning decent work for vulnerable women workers), it does not refer to the current ILO process of considering whether to establish a new instrument or instruments on Ending violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work.
This is unfortunate since, as my recent blog highlights, this is a great opportunity to reduce the prevalence of the violence and harassment which faces the women workers around the world whom CARE tries to support on issues of Dignified Work. And it is one which all of those committed to tackling violence and harassment against women can act on now. The immediate opportunity is to influence the ILO in its thinking as the ILO are seeking replies by 22 September 2017 to their Questionnaire (issued in May this year) on the Convention. Replies are submitted by ILO member States in line with a protocol that requires States to consult with employers’ and workers’ representatives.
We are therefore asking everyone interested in women’s rights to support the ILO Convention.
All of us can take a major step to “change norms in support of women’s economic empowerment” by requesting that those positioned to engage in the consultations that form a key part of the ILO process support a strong and comprehensive new Convention against violence and harassment in the world of work.
If you work in the private sector, you can contact your national employers’ federation and check whether it supports the ILO Convention, and if it does so, ask them to communi¬cate their support to the International Organization of Employers (IOE). If the federation has not yet considered the issue, encourage them to do so as soon as possible. If your company supports the Convention, publicise this fact and let your corporate peers know, eg through existing responsible business networks.
We ask you to take an immediate positive step to deliver the aspirations of the High Level Panel by tackling violence and harassment at work through supporting the ILO Convention.