Harassment and violence in the workplace manifests itself differently in each sector, depending on the enabling environment with the set structures of work. Even with women occupying the larger sector of our working economy, they still get paid lower than men and they are sometimes forced to yield to sexual demands to avoid being overworked, wrongfully dismissed or demoted. Further, most women are not aware of their rights in the workplace.
Unfortunately, most management in the work place generally have little interest in following violence and sexual harassment issues for several reasons, including not knowing how to handle such issues, bribery by management in workplaces, or because the bosses themselves are the harassers.
With this, NGOs have been urged to do more to address rising cases of violence and critical incidents at the workplace following increased international furore over cases of critical incidents, harassment and abuse.
At an NGO workshop convened by Cigna, a global health service company, it was noted that employees and beneficiaries of various charity organisations, had been victims of this abuse, bringing to the forefront an issue that many NGOs concede has been a longstanding problem.
Speaking during the workshop this morning, Cigna Global NGO Director, Angela Rooney, said, “The very public discussion in recent months about the abusive behaviour of a small minority of individuals in the sector has been painful. But now we must learn from these disclosures, working together to re-establish public trust in NGOs and, above all, to ensure the highest level of protection for NGO staff members and the communities they serve here in Kenya and around the world.
“We strongly recommend improved safety of NGOS’ staff, swift responses to critical incidents, safer recruitments, supporting complaints and whistle blowing as part of the immediate actions to see a turn-around on this matter. Cigna and the Cigna Foundation are deeply committed to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the third sector. We’ve been working with NGOs in Kenya and around the world for more than 60 years. We’re inspired by the work they do – and humbled by the opportunity we have to support the sector”.
The workshop dubbed ‘Duty of Care’, is part of Cigna’s global initiative aimed at addressing the matter which has affected individuals including care givers working at high risk violence areas in the NGO world and saw more than 35 NGOs drawn from various parts in Kenya represented.
On her part, Hellen Gatwiri Kiburi, Cigna Case Manager, Kenya pointed out the need for additional attention to individuals working in the NGO scene. “These workshops have helped in breaking the spiral of silence that usually precedes such critical incidents whilst providing an impetus for the public to engage in discourse about sexual abuse which seems to affect many employees in various organisations.”, she said.
In Kenya, civil society organisations have been instrumental in spearheading key social reforms, helping in disaster management in times of emergencies such as during floods or drought as well as initiating various development initiatives at the grassroots hence improving the wellbeing of impoverished communities in underserved areas. Many NGOs have taken great strides in dealing with this issue in recent years. Their skills and experience can now be invaluable in helping the whole sector understand and implement best practice.