Eliminating Discrimination Within Workplace and Across Wider Society
Sudarshana Kundu, Gender at Work
The #MeToo movement has brought the issue of sexual harassment from backrooms of workplaces to public consciousness. It highlights a growing recognition that harassment flourishes in a culture that allows gender inequality to thrive and encourages a system of discrimination and exploitation.
Although the spotlight on sexual harassment has focused on celebrities in the developed world, the issue is not limited to upper-class working women in northern countries. In fact, the women most affected by abuses of power in the workplace often belong to vulnerable groups such as migrant workers, ethnic minorities, daily wage earners, contract labourers, and child labourers, who have no realistic opportunities to call attention to these problems themselves, or secure a remedy.
As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70, the #MeToo movement has renewed calls to action for gender equality and women’s rights in the private sector. For companies, especially multinationals, accountability towards gender equality and human rights is diffused, in part because of weak legal frameworks. However, businesses are slowly recognising the importance of addressing gender equality and other diversity issues in the workplace.
In line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies are expected to address ‘human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products, or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts’. However, businesses committed to implementing gender-responsive human rights standards continue to grapple with the issue of how to advance gender equality within complex organisations across all countries. The crisis is widespread and addressing the gaps will remain a major focus in the years ahead.
In 2018, Ashoka University, IHRB, and Gender at Work ([email protected]) collaborated to develop and deliver a new course that seeks to build awareness and knowledge of private sector employees on how to advance gender and human rights within their business. We will build on this partnership and in 2019, IHRB and Gender at Work will work with several other like-minded organisations and engage in constructive dialogue with private sector organisations to develop minimum standards for implementation of the UN Guiding Principles from a gender perspective, building on existing standards, including the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action for Women Empowerment, and the Women’s Empowerment Principles.
We look forward to strengthening collaboration with civil society groups and companies to pilot and test practical solutions that promote women’s rights in the supply chain and at headquarters.
Sudarshana Kundu is interim Executive Director for Gender at Work Global, and the Country Director for Gender at Work India. Gender at Works partners with activists and researchers to end inequality and discrimination in organisations and communities.