“The workplace must become another line of defense against Gender-based Violence (GBV) and Caribbean businesses must establish policies to ensure that this is the case.”
This call came recently from President of the Caribbean Employers Confederation (CEC), Wayne Chen, as he delivered the opening remarks at the launch of a Gender-based Violence (GBV) Workplace Policy, which is part of the Caribbean Regional Programme of European Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative, designed to empower employers to play their part in the work to end violence against women and girls (VAWG).
Under the theme “From Awareness to Action: Transforming the Caribbean Workplace to End Violence Against Women”, the launch of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-led initiative, featured a range of speakers representing the interests of labour, as well as the regional diplomatic corps.
A total of eight businesses from Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and Trinidad and Tobago, formally demonstrated their commitment to implementing policies to end gender-based violence in the workplace, during a signing ceremony of the official policy.
In addressing the gathering, President Chen noted that the milestones from Phase I of the project included the creation of a gender-based violence workplace toolkit, communications materials and training programmes.
Phase II, he added, would see support being provided to Caribbean employers to apply these tools to their respective industries and business places.
This aspect will be completed in four phases with emphasis on areas as broad as gender equality, victim-centered support, recruitment, reporting and self-defense training.
The CEC President also noted that the COVID-19 Pandemic had exacerbated the issue of VAWG, making the need for initiatives that can create lasting change even more urgent.
David Mogollon, Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union, also addressed the forum describing GBV in the workplace as “simply unacceptable.”
He emphasized that interventions in the workplace must be culturally appropriate and embedded within the organisation, to ensure that there is a “zero tolerance approach” at various levels of its structure, to bring about meaningful change.
Jenny Karlsen, Deputy Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Sub-Regional Office, Caribbean noted: “It is our collective duty which necessitates the support of everyone, from leadership to individuals to foster a safe working environment for everyone because every person, regardless of gender, deserves to work in an environment free from fear, intimidation, or violence. Together, we can make a difference that touches the lives of every individual, particularly women and girls in the Caribbean.”
UN Resident Coordinator, Didier Trebucq, described the proceedings as “an important moment in our journey towards a safer, more equitable workplace for all.”
He noted that with the 2023 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit less than a week away in New York, “this is welcome progress on our work to end Gender-based Violence in the region and achieving the SDGs for people everywhere.”
Commending the eight companies from three CARICOM Member States who participated in developing the GBV Workplace Policy, the UN Head assured that the UN System will continue to support work undertaken in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean “to eliminate GBV in all its forms in the workplace and wherever it shows up.”
Commending employers for their part in this critical policy, Barbados’ Minister of Labour, Social Security and the Third Sector, the Hon. Colin Jordan in delivering the Feature Address underlined that “violence and harassment at work, and in the world of work, causes harm to individuals, families, businesses and societies.
It affects people’s lives, dignity, health and wellbeing. It also worsens inequality in societies and undermines business productivity. There should be no place for and no tolerance of violence and harassment,” he concluded.
Persons attending the launch were also treated to poignant cultural performances by Barbadian Spoken Word artist Cindy Celeste and singer Rhesa Garnes who both reminded of the importance of women to society.
The resources developed will be available to organizers and HR practitioners across the region, in the hope that in the future more organisations will come on board to implement workplace policies that protect the rights and well-being of their employees.
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