By: Laymah Kollie
Monrovia-Thursday, August 10,2023: The Solidarity Center with funding from US Department of Labor has concluded a one-day Integration Coalitions and workshop with stakeholders in Monrovia.
The Project titled “elevating women’s participation in the workplace in West Africa” is a 5-year project implemented by Solidarity Center in Liberia and Nigeria. In Liberia, the stakeholders include the Unions, Government, and Civil Society Organizations. The project focuses on the oil and gas sectors in Nigeria and mining, rubber and oil palm sectors in Liberia.
The project aims to elevate working-age women’s participation in the world of work, particularly women from underserved groups or populations, in Liberia and Nigeria through strengthening networks among individuals, communities, and institutions to address discrimination and GBVH in the world of work; Increased women’s workforce equity/Increased ability for women to enter and succeed in the workplace through reduced barriers to entry, participation, and dignity in the world of work.
It is also intended to minimize discrimination, sexual abuse, sexual and verbal harassment, long work hours, low wages and lack of pay equity unsafe working conditions, limited opportunities for learning and growth against women and meaningful economic inclusion.
The opening remarks on behalf the Country Program Director-West Africa Mr. Sonny Ogbuehi, revealed that a Gender Analysis conducted by Solidarity Center in 2016 in Liberia and a research study conducted by Solidarity in 2021 in Nigeria revealed that 57% across various sectors, had been victims of sexual harassments in workplaces. These harassments include groping, touching, and even rape on the job. His remarks stressed that the project will provide the opportunity for a change in narratives in West Africa particularly Nigeria and Liberia and the ratification of the ILO Convention No.190 concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work in Liberia.
Also remarking at the occasion, The Senate Chair on Labor and Rivercess County Senator Honorable Wellington Geevon Smith emphasized the importance of girls education as a key way to addressing harassments and violence faced by women in work places. He believed that if a woman is provided with education, she will be aware of things that should not be done to her, she will speak out and seek solutions when she encounters violation in any area of work. He stated “It can be better addressed when we give women education. Organizations should focus on building the capacity of women to be qualified. The best thing we can do is to encourage women organizations to give girl child education and not accommodation.”
Also speaking, the Director of the Gender and Social Inclusion Unit at the Ministry of Labor Madam Enad S. Harris, assured Solidarity Center of its commitment to protecting women’s rights. She noted that the Ministry is also working on projects in line with Solidarity Center to enhance a safe space for everyone.
“The Ministry of Labor has also established a unit that is in line with this project and has a policy that is dedicated to encouraging a supportive and diverse social culture at the Ministry of Labor workforce. It is in our best interest to promote diversity and eliminate discrimination and sexual harassments and abuse in workplaces. The Ministry stands with the Solidarity Center to strengthen networks among individuals, communities, and institutions to address discrimination and Gender Based Violence and harassment in the world or work. We look forward to a cordial working relationship and give our commitment throughout the process.”
Furthermore, the Technical Assistant to the Deputy Minister of Gender at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mr. Mohamed Massalee, appreciated Solidarity Center for the Workshop and reemphasized the Ministry’s commitment to fostering women rights at all levels of the environment.
“We would like to applaud Solidarity Center for their commitment to hosting this workshop, which signifies their dedication to creating a space for dialogue and collaboration. Bringing together the relevant stakeholders provides a space for us to be able to leverage each other’s strengths and experiences and build strong relationships, which is important as we move towards the project’s implementation.”
He added “The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is eager to work closely with Solidarity Center and other relevant stakeholders to bring about tangible change in the lives of workers. We believe that by pooling our resources, knowledge, and expertise, we can develop comprehensive approaches to eliminate discrimination and Gender-Based violence and Harassment.”
Moreover, Participants of the Workshop applauded Solidarity Center for the opportunity. They pledged to fully implement the lessons learned at their various entities.
Madam Marthaline Cole, Advisor at the Liberia Labour Congress stated that gender-based Violence is not accepted at all levels; noting, that she will inform women about their rights and violation as to curtail the increase of violence at work places.
“We hear women saying they are not in the know, we hear women saying they don’t know what is violence in the place of work. We are in the environment where people think gender base violence as something normal. Gender based Violence is not accepted at all levels. We will organize them, we will train them in whatever they have not been informed. We will take it back to our people who are not here today.”
At the same time, Counselor Evelyn Gongloe from Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) said that in order to address these concerns, huge attention should be placed in the private sector. She believes that women in this sector face more violation then others.
Meanwhile, participants of the Workshop were drawn from Firestone plantation in Margibi, Equatorial Palm oil, AcelorMittal, Grand Bassa, Mano Company, Capemount and Montserrado counties.
Solidarity Center is the largest US workers’ rights organization founded in 1997 and allied with the AFL-CIO. The Solidarity Center works with unions, worker associations and community groups worldwide to achieve equitable and sustainable development and to help men and women everywhere stand up for their rights and improve their working and living conditions