The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Solidarity Centre AFL-CIO, recently, trained some journalists virtually, on the need for Nigeria to ratify ILO’s Convention 190 to ensure safe and gender violence-free work places. REGINA OTOKPA reports
On March 8, Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the annual International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration. It is a day set aside by the United Nations to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, as well as raise awareness on gender equality.
Although little gains have been made on gender equality in Nigeria , a lot more needs to be done to enable women be at par with their counterparts in other parts of the globe. Besides under representation in public spaces and in decision making processes, women in Nigeria still suffer grave Gender Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH) in their day to day life.
This ugly phenomenon is perpetrated in every facet of society – homes, schools, work places and even religious centres. It includes rape, coercion, sexual assault, unwanted sexual advances. sexual harassment or discrimination, bullying, mobbing, offensive gender stereotyping, verbal or sexist abuse, intimidation, threats of violence and degrading comments.
Concerned over the welfare and output of workers and other persons in the world of work facing abuse or harassment, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), ratified the Convention 190 in 2019. The convention discourages Gender Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH) at work places.
In spite of the benefits of the Convention 190, the Nigerian government is yet to ratify or domesticate it after making commitments and promises to do so, two years after the ILO adopted it.
In recognition of the of the role of the media in defining and shaping gender roles, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in collaboration with the Solidarity Centre AFL-CIO, recently mounted a virtual training for Labour journalists on the need to increase awareness on the dangers of GBVH with a view to preventing it and ensuring ratification of the Convention 190.
Chairperson, NLC Women Commission, Comrade Rita Goyit, said the Convention 190, once ratified, will make work places free from violence and harassment and by extension, boost productivity and place Nigeria on the list of countries that pro-
mote human rights. “In 2019, when the ILO Convention 190 was adopted in Geneva, the Nigerian government made a commitment that it will be among the first countries to ratify and also domesticate the Convention. But that is yet to be done.
“By not ratifying the Convention 190, most workers who suffer GBVH find it difficult to express themselves and suffer in silence while the perpetrators walk free,” she said.
Country Program Director, Solidarity Centre AFL-CIO, Sonny Ogbuehi, who expressed delight at the growing partnership with the media, said the campaign against GBVH would yield faster and better results, following the critical role of the media in bringing issues of GBVH at work places to the front burner.
Nkechi Odinukwe, Senior Program Officer, Solidarity Center AFL-CIO, noted that the Covid- 19 pandemic which emerged in Nigeria, February 2020, gave rise to cases of GBVH unfortunately, as further revealed by a study, ‘MADE FOR THIS MOMENT – How ILO Convention 190 Addresses Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in the World of Work During the COVID- 19 Pandemic and Beyond,’ conducted by the Centre and released in November 2020.
According to the report, “ILO Convention 190 recognizes the societal and structural nature of GBVH in the world of work and emphasizes the need for governments and employers to address its root causes, including discrimination, power relationships, and social and cultural norms that normalize and legitimate GBVH in the world of work. These essential protections have renewed urgency during the pandemic.”
Beyond the call for ratification of the ILO Convention 190, the report made specific recommendations to government, employers and unions on how to address and contain the rising cases of GBVH in the world of work. Governments have been advised to mandate collection of data on the scope and incidence of GBVH in the world of work to inform appropriate legislative and policy responses.
In addition, this will help governments to develop and implement comprehensive amendments to national legislation including laws on labour and employment, occupational safety and health, non-discrimination, criminal law and other relevant areas to prohibit all forms of GBVH as defined by ILO Convention 190.
These efforts are geared towards protecting all workers as defined by ILO Convention 190, as well as require employer accountability for failure to prevent GBVH in the world of work.
On the part of employers, the report recommended public support and advocacy for ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 by national governments, conducting trainings for staff including managers on GBVH in the world of work and to ensure the right policies are put in place to prevent GBVH from happening.
Also, employers are advised to consult with workers and unions to implement employer obligations under ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation 206, including: engaging in a comprehensive risk assessment that examines working conditions, exposure to third parties, power relationships, discrimination and underlying social and cultural norms that support violence and harassment, adopting a workplace policy that defines and prohibits all forms of GBVH as defined in ILO Convention.