By Michael Martin
Blantyre, Mana: Deputy Director of Education for Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) Jessy Ching’oma recently said cases of sexual harassment at workplace were on the rise in the country.
In an interview Ching’oma said between January and October this year MCTU had received 700 cases of sexual harassment cases at workplace against the same reporting period in 2021 where 550 work related cases were reported.
She said 50 percent of the 700 cases were sexual harassment, a development she said need concerted effort to address.
“In most cases MCTU refers survivors to police and the Malawi human Rights Commission. Workers are encouraged to walk into our offices, or use phones and use workplace Trade Union Structures for them to report cases of sexual harassment to MCTU, so that they are assisted,” said Ching’oma.
Gender and Women Rights Officer for Malawi Human Rights Commission Patricia Kavinya said that the Commission conducts anti-sexual harassment trainings for staff and management of both public and private institutions.
“These trainings are complete with redress mechanisms and legal frameworks to ensure that all employees and employers are well aware of their rights as well as responsibilities,” said Kavinya.
She added that: “The commission is also mandated to enforce Gender Equality Act and in this, the Commission encourages organizations to come up with sexual harassment policies, gives guidance in the development of sexual harassment policies as well as reviews and recommendations for amendment of existing sexual harassment policies”.
“Currently, the Commission is investigating more than 900 cases of sexual harassment in the workplaces for both public and private institutions,” Kavinya said.
She therefore asked government to increase funding to the Commission for the actualization of the Gender Equality Act as funding has been a major drawback for activities that are planned in relation to the anti-sexual harassment agenda.
“Partners from the International Non-Governmental Organizations, private and parastatals should collaborate and partner with the commission in advancing policies that curb sexual harassment in the workplaces,” said Kavinya.
She said that, sexual harassment in the workplaces is a form of sex discrimination which negatively affects the working environment, undermines gender equality at work, creates unfair practices in employment, and adversely impacts the dignity and well-being of workers.
“Sexual harassment creates psychological anxiety and stress for victims and if ignored, can result in high costs for companies through loss of productivity, low worker morale, absenteeism, and staff turnover,” said Kavinya.