Expert Interview: Addressing Workplace Sexual Harassment in Uganda

BrighterMonday Uganda podcast hosted Safina Virani from Frauen Initiative, discussing workplace sexual harassment challenges and solutions in Uganda.

Full Episode Here

‘If you can’t say it to your mum, don’t say it to your colleague’
-Safina Virani

To conclude Sexual Assault Awareness month, BrighterMonday Uganda hosted Safina Virani, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Frauen Initiative, on our podcast, Inside The Cubicle. Safina’s expertise shed light on the challenges and potential solutions surrounding workplace sexual harassment in Uganda.

Understanding the Landscape

Uganda is listed as one of the top countries in Africa that has a high volume of Workplace Sexual harassment, 80% to be concise, according to Miss Virani. It is a pressing issue deeply rooted in cultural and societal norms. Misconceptions and power dynamics often lead victims to be unaware they’re being harassed, perpetuating a culture of silence and impunity.

Challenges in Reporting and Addressing Harassment

Safina highlighted the unique challenges faced by individuals in Uganda when reporting or addressing workplace sexual harassment. The lack of education on the subject has left individuals believing that sexual harassment can only be defined as assault. However, it is assessed in the three sexual acts that are normally not consented to, physical, verbal and non Verbal. Examples of these three include, verbal( for example sexist slurs like the b word), then non verbal (Unconsented pictures) and physical could be a collegue doing weird movements that exhibit sex. As a target, these acts leave you disturbed and violated without the predator even touching you.

For employers using job platforms in Uganda, what proactive measures can they take to prevent sexual harassment within their organizations?

‘ Employees need to sit down and look at their policy… Look at your policy and make sure it covers everything. Sexual harassment may not happen within the organization, it might happen between organization and service providers, or if the organization providing a service, it might happen with the customers.’

Employers using job platforms in Uganda must take proactive steps to prevent sexual harassment within their organizations through their policies, internal communications and training. Safina emphasized the importance of establishing clear policies, providing regular training, and fostering a culture of accountability. Promoting professionalism in all interactions is crucial for creating safe work environments.

What role can jobseeker and employer platforms play in raising awareness about sexual harassment and promoting safe working environments?

‘It’s very important to know your rights. It’s very important for you to understand what sexual harassment is, what it looks like and how it manifests in the workplace’

Safina underscored the pivotal role job seeker and employer platforms can play in raising awareness and promoting safe workplaces. By educating users about their rights and providing resources for reporting, these platforms empower individuals to advocate for change and hold organizations accountable. Safina suggested integrating features for anonymous reporting and support services.

What can you do if it’s someone in a position of power that is trying to take advantage of you?

‘According to the employment rules/laws you can’t fire someone for raising this concern’

Safina emphasized the importance of knowing your rights! By law, it is illegal for someone to fire you for raising a concern.

Victims often find themselves in precarious situations where confronting perpetrators may jeopardize their livelihoods. Strategies such as documentation, seeking support from advocacy groups (example Women Pro Bono Initiative or Frauen Intiative) and bystander intervention can help hold perpetrators accountable.

Safina Virani’s insights shed invaluable light on the complexities of workplace sexual harassment in Uganda. By acknowledging cultural and societal factors, implementing company policies, and fostering a supportive environment, stakeholders can work towards creating safer workplaces for all. BrighterMonday remains committed to facilitating these discussions and driving positive change in the workplace.

Gladys Rwabuhemba
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