Starting November 25 on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and running until December 10 – Human RightsDay – the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
This year, the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS),UN Women, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization (PIPSO), the Fiji Women Rights Movement (FWRM), Haus of Khameleon, and the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) have come together to launch a campaign on the elimination of sexual harassment in the workplace. It is not a coincidence that our agencies have chosen to highlight this issue this year.
It is not a coincidence that our agencies have chosen to highlight this issue this year. The 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women held in October focused on women’s economic empowerment; and sexual harassment has been identified as one factor hindering women’s safety and wellbeing in the workplace and preventing women’s access to leadership positions. In 2012, the Forum leaders called for ending violence against women and for their economic empowerment through safe workplaces, including in the informal sector (Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration, 2012). Moreover, sexual harassment has been widely debated around the world in recent months. We need to remind ourselves that these issues. are real in our region too; countless women and girls of all diversities are subjected to comments and behaviours on a daily basis that are not only disrespectful, but also prevent them from fulfilling their academic and professional aspirations. We recognise that men and boys are also at risk of being sexually harassed.
The lack of data on the occurrence of sexual harassment in the Pacific does not mean it does not exist. The most recent study in the region, conducted by FWRM in 2016 with 1013 women, found that one in five women in formal employment in Fiji had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace (Sexual harassment of women in the workplace in Fiji, 2016 follow up study, 2016*). The perpetrators may be employers, supervisors, colleagues or subordinates.
For too many Pacific women, the workplace is unsafe. They endure unwelcome remarks on how they dress and how they look, questions about their intimate relationships, inappropriate touching, exposure to sexual images, gestures, and language, pressure for dates or sexual favours, and so on. These are not laughing matters and must be taken seriously.
Barring a handful of cases, the majority of women in the Pacific do not speak up because they feel they have no options. Many Pacific Island countries and territories lack explicit sexual harassment laws, and many workplaces do not have clear policies. Women also remain silent because they fear they will not be believed or that they will face retaliation.
The 13th Conference made specific recommendations to advance the elimination of sexual harassment in the workplace, calling on the public and private sectors to improve working conditions for women by adopting clear harassment policies. On the occasion of this year’s 16 Days Campaign, we are taking this opportunity to promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, and to reiterate the Conference recommendation, urging for ‘the development and strengthening of partnerships between women and men, and between government institutions, civil society organisations, faith based organisations, unions and the private sector to: establish high-level corporate leadership of gender equality to advance policies for addressing gender-based violence, discrimination and sexual harassment, and promote the appointment of women to leadership positions’.
We also want to encourage Pacific people of all diversities to speak up about sexual harassment and support each other. We want all women and men to work together on building a Pacific community where human rights are guaranteed to all.
White Ribbon is a global campaign that engages men in the quest to end violence against women and girls. Here in the Pacific, many men within our own organisations have pledged to never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women – and our hope is that one day this pledge will ring true for all Pacific men and boys.
We invite you to visit our websites and follow us on social media starting on Saturday November 25, to learn more about sexual harassment and to join us in reflecting on what we can do individually and collectively to ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect in the workplace, free from abuse and harassment.
Sexual harassment is no joke
- Colin Tukuitonga, Director General of the Pacific Community (SPC)
- Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
- Aleta Miller, Representative of UN Women at the Fiji Multi-Country Office
- Donglin Li, Director of ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries
- Alisi Tuqa, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation
- Nalini Singh, Executive Director, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement
- Sulique Waqa, Creative Director, Haus of Khameleon
- James Movick, Director General, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
Return to the campaign page >