Ministries taking action against sexual harassment

Date: Tuesday, July 5, 2016

With the support of UN Women, four line ministries in Georgia plan to pilot an online course on sexual harassment for all staff. The hope is that the course, which focuses on building awareness, advocatingprevention and creating empathy with victims, will in the future become mandatory for all public servants and break the silence surrounding sexual harassmentin the workplace.

The pilot training with 18 representatives from almost all ministries; Photo: UN Women
According to a survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, one in two women in the 28 EU countries has experienced sexual harassment at least once since the age of 15. A Georgian study conducted by the Centre for Social Sciences found that sexual harassment is a sensitive issue in the country and that the understanding of what sexual harassment actually entails is generally low. Of the female and male respondents, 96% stated that they had never experienced sexual harassment, but when answering more detailed questions regarding the different forms of harassment, it was found that 38% of women and 8% of men had been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace at least once. Sexual harassment is a human rights violation and a form of sex-based discrimination, but it still remains a taboo subject that largely goes unreported.

Four ministries – the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Corrections, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees – have taken the lead to put in place an online sexual harassment course for all civil employees that aims to break the silence, counter the many myths surrounding sexual harassment, promote prevention and create the conditions for victims to file complaints and access support. With the support of UN Women, the interactive online course is being developed, the contents of which were piloted by UN Women with 18 representatives from almost all ministries on 5 July 2016. The pilot training was organized in cooperation with the Civil Service Bureau, and its purpose was to tailor thecourse’s case studies and interactive elements to the national context and the public sector setting. The feedback received will be used to finalize the training modules. “We have designated colleagues in the General Inspection Department that will be focusing on receiving and reviewing sexual harassment complaints, and relevant contact information is already included in the course,” stated Salome Kvavadze, Deputy Head of the Administration of General Inspection of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia.

Once the online training is ready (towards the end of 2016), it will be launched in the four pilot ministries, with the intentionto make it mandatory for all civil servants. By substituting myths with facts, preventing sexual harassment, promoting empathy with victims and informing about the actions one can take as a victim, a colleague or a manager, the hope is to contribute to a working environment free from sexual harassment.