|Introduction and objectives of the consultation
|Summary of Code of Conduct
||Dr. Fouzia Saeed
|Comments on Code
|Chief Guest's speech
||Mr. Qamruddin, Ministry of women Development
||Mohd. Anwer Golra and Sohaila Asif, Ministry of Women Development and Ministry of Labor
|Play on Sexual Harassment
The consultation was hosted and chaired by Ministry for Women Development and the Chief Guest was the Director, Mr. Qamruddin. The Ministry was assisted by PILER, on behalf of AASHA.
The Ministry representation was very strong, and in addition to the Director, Sohaila Arif, Director General of Women Development, and Mohd. Anwer Golra, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Development were also present. There was also special representation of the provincial Labor Department.
The gathering was a diverse representation of all civil society stakeholders, all those who identified with the concern and felt the immediacy of the issue in their lives and environment.
Journalists, women working in varied fields such as nursing, marketing, teaching to factory workers were present. NGOs, lawyers, trade unionists, policy makers and officials were also there. The level of interest and commitment to work on this concern was unanimous, as was endorsement of the Code.
After the introductions, Farhat Parveen spoke about the prevalence of gender based discrimination and harassment at the workplace, focusing on how the issue emerged as an urgent concern needing redress. She emphasized the need for legislation and outlined the aims and objectives of the consultation meeting.
Dr. Fouzia Saeed, from Action Aid Pakistan presented a summary of the Code of Conduct and elaborated on its genesis and salient features. She explained that the code of conduct was a policy which was binding and would be followed by a codified law soon. She also explained that an ordinance could be derived from the Code itself.
Mehtab Rashdi in her speech accentuated the gravity of the concern at hand. She gave an over view of gender based discrimination with a personal narrative; she spoke about her own context where traditions reinforce biases against women working. She gave all credit to her father for being strong enough to withstand pressure to ensure she had an education and career. With her own example, she pointed out how essential attitudinal change was, and that it was possible only by including men in the discourse and urging them to understand the dynamics of gender and accept and embrace change.
The Chief Guest, the Director of the ministry of women development endorsed the code and accepted the need for addressing the concern.
The consultation in Sindh resulted in an encouraging impetus. The participants divided themselves into two groups for further brainstorming, concentrating on formulating a plan of action to take the issue forward and the other group worked out modalities for implementation of the Code.
This was followed by a play on sexual harassment which dramatized true incidences of harassment faced by sales girls, nurses and agriculture workers.
A lively and interactive followed, the inputs and recommendations of which are presented in this report.
It was noted that there has been a marked increase of women entering workplaces, and for a conducive environment, preventive measures against sexual harassment are needed in addition to reactive ones.
Concerns were voiced about implementation mechanisms repeatedly. It was noted that women in managerial and relatively ‘upward' positions had more autonomy and empowerment, whereas women who were workers at the lowest rungs may not be able to access the protection of the Code and certain brackets maybe marginalized, for instance migrant workers.
The discussion also reflected concerns that certain forms of harassment would not be covered by the Code, such as harassment in public places and workers in the export processing zones.
The participants felt that an important strategy could have been to involve women councilors in advocacy, which was not adequately explored in this particular consultation. It was thought that their involvement could be explored when working out implementation modes.
There were many concerns about implementation of Code, it was suggested that a time limit should be placed in which code must be incorporated in organizational policies, to emphasize urgency and imperative.
It was also suggested that an over arching body could be constituted to monitor the adoption and implementation of Code by organizations covered in it.
When working out modalities for implementation, it was strongly felt that care should be taken that accusers should not be on the enquiry committee, nor should that person be in a position to influence it, and given the power structures within organizations, complaint centers should be set up in every city.
It was strongly felt that women workers need to be brought in the process and the Code should be shared with all workers irrespective of standing, and should therefore be translated.
The discussion also looked into the role the media can play in outreach of the Code and raising awareness about it. But it was noted that proper dissemination and understanding of Code could only be brought about by all civil society stakeholders owning the concern, relating it in all contexts and collectively deciding to work on follow up and redress.
Suggestions also included bringing employers federations into the net and sole proprietorships which often have no management structure and just a single chain of command should be deliberated over and incorporated.
It was recommended that adoption of Code should be a condition at the time of registration of new organizations.
Another input was that counseling, group therapy or some such platform should be given to women to organize, if they have undergone such incidences.