Saying ‘No’ to workplace harassment | Pakistan Today

Saying ‘No’ to workplace harassment

  • A step towards promotion of women’s 3E’s!

As it is commonly said that society is a vehicle and the two genders i.e. male and female are the wheels of the same vehicle sharing equal load of driving it forward towards progress in all spheres. The responsibility of driving a society forward does not rest on any particular gender, rather on its every constituent. One failing to, or in worst case scenario, kept from playing its part, as required, will keep the society at a good hands distance from its objective destination, despite the other one going the extra mile. Given the necessity, it is imperative for every ingredient of the society to realise the significance they hold in progress of the latter, and hence, strive for the same abreast.

Demographics of Pakistan, in light of the census conducted in 2017, remain evenly distributed between the two genders, with males constituting approximately 51.23pc (106,443,520 in number to be exact) of the total population which stood at 207,774,520; while the rest of 48.76pc population (101,330,000 in number) comprises females.

The literacy rate (ability to read and write being the defined criterion) of the total population stands at 60pc. Whereas 69pc of the male population is rated as literates, the female literacy ratio stands at 45pc, leaving 55pc behind in the darkness of illiteracy, which by the way is more than half of female population. While the barriers to this lag owe their origin to the so-called societal, traditional, and tribal norms, although apparently to-be more psychological in nature, and despite these barriers still being very much there, it is yet encouraging to see some improvement in increase in literacy rate of females facilitating the mainstreaming of women. Awareness, perhaps, is making its way through! However, this does not absolve the government, the relevant state institutions, and even the society as a whole of its responsibility to arouse this awareness further by challenging the deteriorative status-quo, and taking the right pitch forward.

After all, our great religion Islam has categorically made the acquisition of knowledge obligatory upon every male, and female; and therefore, abolishes every possible barrier to education of females equally alongside males.

Demographics of Pakistan, in light of the census conducted in 2017, remain evenly distributed between the two genders

Despite the barriers, the females have proven their mettle in not just the field of education, but in professional arenas as well, be them corporate, government, semi-government, NGO’s, or even the armed forces now. Women have, and are well on the way to breaking the shackles of being perceived as the delicate ones.

Ironically, the conversion percentage of females from mere academics toppers to professionals is not that encouraging as yet. Although it has improved over the years, there is still an immense gap that needs to be filled timely in order to contribute towards, and account for sustained economic progress, and development.

Whereas the barriers, aforementioned, are primary culprits to this deficient conversion, workplace harassment is another monster that adds fuel to this fire. And irrespective of the rather unfortunate state of denial, this monster is for real! On one hand, our politicians, intellectuals, human and women rights activists, and others have been accommodative of the significance of women’s contribution towards national progress, and have been continually calling on them to play their role, but at the same time have not undertaken any concrete steps to delegate the required confidence in doing so.

Practically, nothing has been done to curb the menace of workplace harassment, while this evil continues to haunt the ambitious thoughts of a good proportion of our population.

Against the odds we speak of, however, the passing of “Sindh Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill 2018” by the Sindh Cabinet comes a breath of fresh air. Following the meeting chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Tuesday (October 16, 2018), the cabinet directed the CM’s law adviser to study the clauses of the Bill, and table it for approval in the Sindh Assembly.

The bill is aimed at protection of women against harassment, and addressing their issues at workplace through a legal framework. Perpetrators found guilty of the act can be deprived of their annual increment, promotion, or in worst case, even end up losing their job. Consequences are fair enough, subject to proper implementation, to keep the wrongdoers, and misdeed carriers from committing this act providing safe workplaces for women. In addition to the stated consequences, however, it is our (males) moral, and ethical responsibility to play our respective roles at workplaces in accommodating females respectfully, yet competitively.

The initiative by Sindh government is commendable, and can/must be taken up at federal level by the ruling party along with other provinces in order to ensure provision of harassment free workplaces that encourage healthy competition combined with equal growth opportunities.

Curbing workplace harassment is certainly a step towards promoting women’s 3E’s i.e. encouragement, employability, and empowerment.

Safer workplaces will account for abating the somewhat rampant reluctance among women by encouraging them to step forward, and transform themselves from mere academic credential bearers to professionally acclaimed individuals; which will lead us to the second E i.e. employability. As the encouragement makes its way, the women employability rate will automatically increase concurrently improving the overall conversion of female students to professionals. Ultimately leading us to the last E but definitely not the least; empowerment. Women empowerment, whether social, economic, or political, will account for society’s moderated progress, and country’s overall economic uplift.

Women fully optimised in their role side by side with men is a mandatory pre-requisite to not only our evolution as a moderately enlightened, and balanced society, but as a developed country as well.

Falling short, rest assured, will keep us where we are.