Human Resource Managers are integral to formulating and enforcing workplace policies and cultures. They therefore serve as indispensable partners in the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace. In response to the scourge of sexual harassment within workplaces in Uganda that goes unchecked, we took our campaign to end sexual harassment in the world of work to HR Managers from different firms in the country. The conversation supported by Urgent Action Fund-Africa was held on 6th December as the managers were in the process of reflecting on the year and strategizing for 2020. Sexual harassment is a key concern we hoped would be on their agendas.
The discussion provided a space for participants to develop a shared understanding of what sexual harassment is, inform on the legal and policy frameworks on sexual harassment, and share best practices on how to handle sexual harassment in the work place. Some of the key questions that the Managers reflect on and shared, posed by our Research, Advocacy and Movement Building Manager, Leah Eryenyu included how they previously handled cases of sexual harassment and the challenges faced doing this. They also shared about how they handled consensual relationships, which for most, resulted into one of the parties leaving their post.
Participants also shared the various ways that they have contributed to creating safer workplaces and what they could have done better. Wins included making sexual harassment a normal conversation, developing policies against the vice and resolving a couple of cases. The Catholic Relief Services also reported having established a toll-free line for their workers to call in and report cases of abuse. On the other hand, some companies acknowledged that they had put little effort into curbing the vice with some lacking policies and not providing psychosocial support for victims. The Managers present also noted that because of the culture of silence surrounding the vice, they have not registered as many cases of harassment despite rumours and whispers in corridors about incidences.
….How do I encourage my fellow staff to come up to me and report?
Why don’t survivors report…?
In a panel conversation moderated by Fiona Komusana, a Feminist lawyer, participants committed to strengthening their ability to handle and investigate cases of sexual harassment at their workplaces as well as operationalise the policies they put in place to curb the vice. They also made a case for HR managers to be consistenly trained to handle sexual harassment cases highlighting the importance of applying emotional intelligence, understanding and application of the process. At the end of the conversation, each participant received a Zero Tolerance Policy for Sexual Harassment wall hanging to be placed at their offices as well as an Understanding Sexual Harassment in the World of Work booklet.