Unfortunately, Ethiopia is one of the top countries in the world where gender-based violence is prevalent. Women are raped, abducted, battered and sexually harassed all around the country, this is one of the incidents that transcends setting. Whether in the rural area and or the urban setting, women are harassed in one form or another on a daily basis. What makes matters worse is the fact that most women do not report sexual harassment either for fear of shame or choosing to make light of the matter especially when it comes to minor offences such as verbal harassment. In a study conducted around the Gulele area by CARE Ethiopia, since 2011, only 7% of women that have been victimized by sexual assault or harassment have reported the offence.
Sexual harassment in the workplace can be categorized in two forms; reciprocal harassment and creation of a hostile work environment. Reciprocal harassment, as the name suggests is when a person in power demands a subordinate tolerates sexual harassment or advances as a condition for getting a position and/or keeping a job, promotion, raises and/or other fringe benefits. A single incident is enough to have this kind of conduct to be classified as sexual harassment. A hostile work environment is created when a co-worker/supervisor conducts him/herself in unwelcome pervasive/sexual way. These could range from an inappropriate comment to groping to more invasive sexual advances. Balancing the feeling of being violated with the need to report the assault is quite tricky for women at the work place as culturally the blame is most always on them. Whether it is the way a woman is dressed or how she behaves herself, somehow, it is a popular conclusion to assume she attracted the attention and therefore it’s her fault. This causes women to underreport their abuse or not report it at all.
However, it is possible to stop actions like these or significantly decrease their occurrence by providing sensitivity trainings to all staff members on this issue. Creating awareness on the issue helps make the workplace experience better for both genders. Should instances of sexual offence happen, it is crucial for companies to put in place and swiftly enforce laws that protect women while creating an environment that is discreet, affirming and encouraging for women to come forth. Even more crucial, women who have been victims of unwanted sexual advances should come forth with their stories and actually pursue the perpetrators. When sexual harassment or assault at the work place remain unreported, the consequences go beyond the victim and the perpetrator. It creates a company culture of abuse and neglect where employees do not feel safe and/or protected.
If you’ve had an experience with sexual misconduct or a similar incident, we would love to speak with you and feature your story on our blog! Send as an email at firstname.lastname@example.org