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Females facing weak awareness at work to deal with sexual harassment - Daily News Egypt

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Females facing weak awareness at work to deal with sexual harassment

Hashtags against sexual harassment at workplace went viral on social media during past weeks after recent cases reported by females with their colleagues

Under inactivated law and awareness, sexual harassment became a ghost following females anywhere she heads or stays at, the phenomenon became expected anywhere and from anyone.

As a female, you can be harassed while sitting in a restaurant, you can be stopped by a harasser in the streets, whereby a harasser can come to offer to take you on a date, or follows you in streets, or be touched by him, while buying something or while being inside public transportation.

In all these previous situation females can still shout or resist, but it is not the same when harassment happens at the workplace.

Females in many cases of sexual harassment at the workplace choose to remain silent and not to report about harassment due fear of termination or to be accused of exaggeration or distorting the reputation of a workmate.

After some sexual harassment cases have surfaced on the scene during the past weeks, stirring controversy on social media platforms, feminist groups called on a strict dealing with harassment in workplace and adding a new article criminalising sexual harassment at the workplace and explaining how companies should deal with the issue.

During the past weeks, several hashtags on social media spoke against harassment at work following reports by a female journalist accusing her supervisor of harassing her.

As a result, more social media initiatives and awareness campaigns in Egypt were created aimed at condemning sexual violence against women, demanding that the rule of law gets to be applied, and encouraging women to speak up and create support networks.

Egypt’s Penal Code already include some articles that punish verbal and psychical harassment, but was long criticised by legal experts for not including a clear mechanism of implementation, resulting in having these articles not activated well.

The head of the New Woman Foundation (NWF) Mona Ezzat recommended that the new amendments should be added to the labour work stipulating that the one who is facing harassment charges at work should not be allowed continue his work until the end of investigations.

Majority of females interviewed have witnessed sexual harassment in government and private workplaces, more in factories, according to a report conducted by the NWF. The interviewed females reported facing specific looks at their bodies, and sexual suggestive comments.

The findings of the report showed that there is an urgent need to raise women’s awareness of legal protections, actions to be taken when subjected to sexual harassment, and noted that there is lack of programmes for gender equality, anti-violence, and intra-union discrimination. However, there were many reports speaking about the lack of awareness inside workplaces, whereby still few companies are dealing seriously with the issue.

In one of the recent campaigns made by HarassMap initiative a plane to create awareness at work in an organisation or institution on sexual harassment and how to deal with it.

Few years, the initiative already began ‘Safe corporates’ campaign that came to eradicate sexual harassment at work place through offering trainings, tools, and expert support to help businesses adopt, implement, and follow up on anti-sexual harassment policies.

Recently, HarassMap launched a specialised training programme conducted for Uber male and female drives, to raise their awareness on what behaviours are determined as sexual harassment and when they determine that they are facing harassment themselves. The initiative is further contacting companies to raise awareness on importance of fighting sexual harassment and how their legal department should deal with harassment cases.

I left because I can’t talk

A 26 year old dentist said: “I was working as a doctor assistant in dentistry clinic, my supervisor, who was 34, used to drag me by my hand every time he wants to assign me to do a task. At the beginning I used to justify that he has no bad intentions, but after speaking to my friends they all agreed that is a form of harassment she should not accept it, especially, that he was always touchy.”

“Also every time when he is nervous of work, after shouting at us, he comes to me and pat my shoulder,” she also said, noting that “his attitude was general with all females working at the clinic, there are some who accepted the attitude, but I never did, every time I find him touchy I pull myself back.”

When asked if she ever confronted him, she said that when he found that she is unsatisfied with his attitude, he started to limit himself with her.

The young dentist explained that she kept on questioning herself at the beginning if what is happening from her boss is normal or harassment.

“Later I left, I could not continue working in a place where I was not feeling comfortable,” she said.

Usually, woman take time at the beginning to determine whether what she is facing can be a violation towards her body or not, and in many cases speaking is not a good option for females at work.

I was young I can’t decide

“When I was at the secondary stage. In my summer vacation my parents contacted a family friend to make me start a training at his media company, that were shooting advertisement. At that time I was every young all my ambition was to work as a director, so working at such a place was a significant step to reach my dream,” said Enji Ahmed, a mass communication graduate.   

She continued that she was happy working there, the owner introduced her to the team including his assistant who was mainly following up with her over work since the owner was not available all the time.

The age difference between her and the assistant was 25 years, and he was engaged, she noted.

“Two weeks later, I started to work out of the office with the assistant and the rest of the crew at shooting locations, which sometimes was the reason I got back home late. Sometimes he offered to drive me home, and I used to agree only when his fiancée was always with us, so I will not be alone with him,” Ahmed said, adding that “afterwards, I started to realise inappropriate looking, phrases, but I was ignoring him, saying to myself that I might be misunderstanding him until he psychically harassed me.”

The 25 year said: “He touched me from the back while standing with a group of people, I took a long time to understand, I panicked and was afraid to tell anyone. I started to step away from him, even our colleagues realised my attitude with him, however, he did not stop his behaviour, but he continued it.”

When I tried once to speak to the owner, he was always breathing down my neck to make sure that I do not report him to my manager, so I left, she concluded.

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