Naghma Abidi on ‘Teaching Feminisms, Transforming Lives’

Blog post by Naghma Abidi

In the moments of now, you are so much involved in the present and it is only when that moment has passed that you appreciate the full essence of it, even the subtle aspects of the experience that you did not realize at that moment that you were absorbing. This is true for the week at Edinburgh that flew by in a wink for me. It was only as I got ready to leave the boundaries of the United Kingdom that I felt the full impact of the time that I had spent with the team of Feminist Taleem.

My journey with Feminist Taleem is filled with several major milestones. It started with my becoming part of the host team for the Delhi workshop. This involved spending an intensive week with the project team members from Ambedkar University Delhi and University of Edinburgh. During this week, I found myself amidst other women who identified themselves as ‘feminists’. I was exposed to a diversity of ideas and experiences, and this exposure initiated a process of reflection. This process reached its height at the February workshop in Edinburgh when we, as a team, met again for a week-long deliberation. My ‘aha’ moment during this week was hitting upon the realization that women academics’ realities are so similar across different contexts in the North and the South.

However, in the run up to this ‘aha’ moment and the Edinburgh workshop, as such, I had been very apprehensive. All project team members were to present an auto-ethnographic paper about their engagement with feminism, and I felt apprehensive while writing my own paper for this presentation. After all, it was a part of me that I was transferring onto paper! A paper to be shared in the public domain would mean making myself vulnerable, and it is never easy in this world to deliberately place oneself in such a position, even if it is among fellow feminists where subjectivity is allowed to emerge. But when Lauren, another project team member and fellow PhD scholar, spoke about her fears during the workshop, I felt like it created a space to openly talk about my own vulnerabilities. It also strengthened my belief that only when we are able to create spaces to talk about our own fears ourselves that we can do the same for others.

In my doctoral research, and in my paper, I was trying to capture my maternal self and within that the essence of my own mother’s presence. I was also curious as to how others like me dealt with their dilemmas surrounding ‘womanhood’ and ‘motherhood’. My research question was: ‘Where does the subjective position of a Muslim mother in contemporary India lie?’ I suspect this subjective position is influenced by an identity that is increasingly seen as the ‘other’ by the majority in the society, in a world that is witnessing multiple instances of what is called ‘Islamic terrorism.’ To pen this ongoing journey as I hold conversations with other mothers is fraught with struggles as it requires oneself to be honest and dig deeper within – like an archeologist who excavates what lies hidden and yet influences deeply the present. It is for this reason that I was apprehensive – there was lots to write but I was struggling to write it, and that is also how the title of my paper emerged, ‘As I Struggle, I Write the Script for My Daughter.’

The underlying theme of our project is creating feminist classrooms, and the workshops in Delhi and Edinburgh truly offered not only formal but also informal feminist spaces where we felt enriched through exposure and sharing of new ideas. I remember the time that I spent with my fellow Ambedkar University students preparing for our visit to Edinburgh. We learnt to work together and got to know each other beyond the mere familiarity of faces seen on campus. Friendships were formed and our sense of togetherness was consolidated during the week spent in Edinburgh. The initial walk around town that Megan and Orla took us on in Edinburgh, and the subsequent feminist tour of the city will be remembered with fondness. In fact, the feminist tours of the city – quite different from the ordinary tours of the city which tell us about the history of a place – were, for me, the best features of both the Edinburgh and Delhi workshops!

At Edinburgh, what made the adage ‘the personal is political’ truly come alive for me was our visit to Professor Mackay’s home. She invited the whole project team over for dinner, giving us a glimpse of her ‘personal space’, and extending such warmth and friendship. I see this as a crucial aspect of our being feminists. When we open different spaces that we live in to include others we acknowledge the possibilities of intersubjectivities, thereby allowing for the existence of different identities and interfaces between them. That evening, all of us talked about our lives and our politics. Personal anecdotes helped build connections. Creativity flowed through music and poetry representing both countries. I think the evening was a demonstration of the kind of feminist space that we talk about creating for others around us, be it our students in the classroom or in our individual groups. From the informal space of the home to the formal spaces during the workshop, each of us was responsible for constructing an environment where we were able to speak because we experienced the feeling of being heard.

Overall, I loved the conversations about our lives and how this gets reflected in our work. It made engagement in the project so much deeper for me, personally. I loved the reflective pieces presented by each project team member, especially those presented by the students (not to say that the presentations of the faculty were not inspiring :)) as each one of them had something that spoke to me about what I experience in my own life. Therefore, hearing and talking about it was a relief. Being paired up with a team member from Edinburgh gave me an opportunity to get exposed to a work domain I was not familiar with. Sarah, who discussed my paper, helped me by asking questions about things I had not noticed, having been so close to my subject. I hope I was able to do the same for her. Reading her paper allowed me to think about ‘bodiedness’ and I was left with curiosity about how it would translate further in her work.

I returned back to Delhi, inspired to engage with my work with renewed energy that only comes in when your soul is refreshed.

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On the Collectivity of Feminist Pedagogy: Reflections on Feminist Sharing in Delhi

Blog post by Dr Lisa Kalayji

Some months back, I picked up Sara Ahmed’s eagerly-awaited most recent book, Living a Feminist Life. Opening it to the first page, I found the dedication:

‘To the many feminist killjoys out there doing your thing: THIS ONE IS FOR YOU.’

For several minutes I sat with the book open to that page, taken aback by how much it had moved me, and trying to figure out why. On reflection, it makes perfect sense. Feminist killjoys – and feminist teachers – operate largely in apparent isolation. We’re out there ‘doing our thing’, unyieldingly intruding on patriarchy’s otherwise smooth operation. It’s rich and rewarding labour, but labour nonetheless, and it’s often met with resistance, derision, ostracism, and sometimes much worse. We fight on anyway because it needs to be done, but the feeling of being an isolated feminist antagonist is lonely and exhausting.

When I read that dedication, I was immediately struck by a mental image of all of the other feminists out there, and just how vast a network we are. We each know that the others are there, doing the feminist work, pushing on patriarchy’s stubbornly solid walls, but that knowing is often not felt. For the most part, we don’t know who these other feminists are, where they are, or what they’re doing. We can’t see them, touch them, or hear their voices. We just have to keep pushing, and trust that the others are there pushing alongside us, even if they’re too far down the length of the wall for us to see them. Occasionally, though, there is a fleeting instant when our awareness of one another’s presence  – of the vastness of the feminist army – is really felt. Reading Ahmed’s dedication, I thought of all of the others holding that same book in their hands, strong and determined but weary from the long feminist fight we’re each fighting, each a one-person cell in a web too great to readily fathom. As individuals we do important work, but what makes feminism an unstoppable force in the world is that we are absolutely everywhere. That great web is indestructible and full of power and energy, reverberating with the passion, cumulative insight, and wilfulness of agitators, educators, and freedom fighters.

Fast forward a few months, and the Teaching Feminisms, Transforming Lives team is meeting for the first time in Delhi. We had only about a week together, which couldn’t possibly be enough time, but we made the most of it, sharing ideas, papers, reflections, travels, meals, and happiness. On one intellectually explosive day, we presented papers to one another and other interested attendees, and convened a roundtable discussion of our team as well as a range of other feminist educators. It would be difficult to convey the enormity of what a single conference room contained that day. Around a long conference table, and with a packed-out second layer surrounding it, was an assembly of feminist titans. By that, I don’t refer to the notoriety of some of those present (though some were widely recognisable), but rather to the immensity of wisdom, experience, conviction, and insight accumulated amongst the group present.

We shared reflections on feminist teaching and learning, and the challenging and ambivalent negotiations and travails that we each face in practising them. We were reminded that many of our students are led to feminist classrooms by deeply personal journeys, and of the incongruity of our responding by handing them overwhelming reading lists of esoteric theoretical texts. We heard about the difficulties of persuading women to pursue and finish their educations, and the disappointing concessions to patriarchal discourse that it sometimes requires. We examined the challenges of teaching anti-feminist men in a feminist classroom, and of being a pro-feminist man in educational spaces which mark feminist education as the sole purview of women. We explored productive and inhibitive forms of feminist and anti-feminist discomfort in pedagogical spaces, and sat with the encouraging but dissonant acceptance that ease and comfort are unlikely signs of transformation – feminism was never meant to be an easy ride. We shook our heads in frustration, laughed with glee, and nodded with fervent affirmation as we recognised one another’s feminist pedagogical journeys in our own.

What has most stayed with me after the event, though, was one particular narrative we heard near the end of the almost three-hour long session. After many interventions around the question of what we collectively called the ‘resistant subject’ – the mind which draws away from the threat of a burgeoning feminist consciousness – we were told about a young man in a feminist classroom who, after weeks of wrestling with feminist learning, submitted a revelatory essay at the end of the term. It began, ‘Let us imagine…’ before going on to engage in the vital practice of radically envisioning a more feminist world. There are infinitely many things to say about feminist imagining and what it enables us to do, but in the satisfied exhaustion of a long and enriching day, what most struck me was what this feminist teacher had to say next: She reflected that if our teaching leads to a student submitting an essay which opens with the phrase ‘let us imagine’, then ‘we’ve done our job’.

In that moment, the feminist super-network invoked in Sara Ahmed’s striking book dedication was present, not just through the experiences and reflections we had shared, but through the acknowledged collectivity of the pedagogical enterprise: ‘we’ve done our job’. Most of what we do as feminist teachers is, of course, teach. We enter classrooms, teach and learn, and are perpetually astonished at how much our students teach us. We, in collaboration and negotiation with students, do the on-the-ground intellectual, emotional, and relational work of bringing about the feminist world which we hope to co-imagine with them. But we do a lot of that work in isolation from each other, embedded in our classrooms and usually unable to see one another. With so many brilliant feminist minds gathered in a single room, the invisibility of the vast web of which we’re all a part was broken. We saw and felt the already-known reality that many of the thoughts, ideas, trials and tribulations, victories, defeats, frustrations, ambivalences, and pleasures that we each experience are ones that we all experience.

In our individual classrooms, compartmentalised and separated by university departments and national borders and the brute force of empire, we are collectively forging a groundswell of feminist consciousness. Political transformation cannot be stopped by walls or borders or boundaries, and though we always know that, the physical co-presence that our meeting in Delhi afforded us enabled us to palpably feel that knowledge, and to engage in a form of exchange which will fuel our pedagogical work and better enable us to continue the transformative feminist project that we, and our students, have embarked upon.

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Just a joke? #MeToo, Internet humour and feminist killjoys

2018-04-11 18.25.53Maja Brandt Andreasen is an AHRC- funded PhD student in feminist media studies at the University of Strathclyde. Her research project investigates rape discourse on humorous websites with the Weinstein allegations and the #MeToo movement as the case study.


The #MeToo movement remarkably created a shift in the public debate where victims were considered truthful and where sexual abuse was discussed as a systemic problem. At least that’s the impression I got from the mainstream media and my left-wing, feminist Twitter feed. However, when looking into social media sites that encourage users to share humorous responses to current events, I get a very different impression of the reactions to sexual abuse. Through my PhD research I look at memes about #MeToo and the Harvey Weinstein case on websites that encourage users to have fun and that “want to make the world a happier place”. My question is, though, who exactly is invited into this humorous space and who is excluded? You guessed it, this is of course a question of gender. The websites I’m analysing prove to be androcentric and heteronormative discursive spaces where users never mention their gender because they are always assumed to be male (and white, and heterosexual, and young, and able-bodied etc.). Should a female user reveal her identity she will be the target of abuse for having broken the unspoken rule of androcentrism, echoing the popular Internet trope “There are no girls on the Internet”.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 17.56.24Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 17.55.31

Image text: From Maja Brandt Andreasen’s data set.

As Judith Butler points out, language has the ability to injure us, to impose harm on us and is therefore not merely a harmless instrument of communication (Butler 1997). Similarly, I would argue that there is no such thing as harmless humorous discourse. It is never “just a joke” because our discursive spaces are always a product of our social, cultural and historical reality. When harmful or hurtful humorous discourse, such as dismissive memes about rape, is trivialised because it is “just a joke” it functions as a distraction from the structural problem with rape culture. A meme comparing Weinstein to Jabba the Hutt or a picture of a sock with the words #MeToo reveal a long line of assumptions about victims and abusers. In this example Weinstein is characterised as inhuman, as “other”, as something monstrous which distracts from the structural problem of sexual abuse. The truth is that sexual abuse isn’t limited to separate instances but is something most women experience to some extent, exactly what #MeToo pointed to. Also, comparing a sock (presumably used for masturbation) to a victim of sexual abuse not only ridicules the #MeToo movement, it also trivialises sexual harassment, abuse and rape.

What the sock image also reveals is how these humorous discursive spaces online function as androcentric communities. The humour is by men and for men which then often means that women are the punch-line of the jokes. As mentioned above, the consequence for female voices on these online spaces is verbal abuse. Humour here becomes a tool for inclusion and exclusion with a male producer of humorous content on one end of the spectrum and a female voice of disruption on the other. Female disruptive voices are dismissed and deemed humourless, in fact the trope of the humourless feminist is a favourite in these communities that consider themselves as a sort of freedom fighters in the feminist war against free speech. Again I ask: who exactly has access to freedom of speech and who is limited by it? Sara Ahmed (2010) refers to this disruptive feminist voice as a “feminist killjoy”. This is the person who protests, who speaks up and disrupts the spaces of joy and happiness which are only reserved for some and which marginalises and excludes others. I find the feminist killjoy to be an incredibly powerful, encouraging and empowering image when dealing with humorous rape discourse online. Victim blaming, rape myths and trivialisation of rape thrive in these spaces and I for one am not going to dismiss perpetuation of rape culture as “just a joke”. I wear my Feminist Killjoy t-shirt with pride. And by the way, I have an excellent sense of humour.


Works cited:

Ahmed, Sara. 2010. “Feminist Killjoys (And Other Willful Subjects).” The Scholar and Feminist Online 8 (3).
Butler, Judith. 1997. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Perfomative. London: Routledge.


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The UCU strikes: a battle for the future of Higher Education | British Politics and Policy at LSE

What type of university system do we want? One with a casualised workforce and vice-chancellors who can claim they deserve exorbitant pay packages for running
— Read on

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Another year – and another chance to read genderpol’s top blogs of 2017


Graffiti: AUD Delhi Campus

Happy New Year to all our genderpol readers! To mark the beginning of a new year, we’re taking the opportunity to revisit the most-read blogs of 2017. Enjoy!

In November, we posted a series of blogs to raise awareness of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. Guest bloggers Lesley McMillan (Glasgow Caledonian) [link] and Deborah White (Trent University, Ontario) kicked off the series with a thought-provoking piece entitled Technologising Rape and Sexual Assault: Can we really innovate the problem away?  They examined a growing trend in ‘anti-rape’ technologies (prototypes and on-the-shelf products) which range from the farcical to the, frankly, sinister. They argue such technologies commodify the safety of women, misplace responsibility for rape and sexual assault on everyone except the perpetrator, and misrepresent the issue as individualised rather than society-wide.

Introducing genderED: A new hub for gender and sexuality teaching and research at University of Edinburgh  reported on the launch in 2017 of a new virtual portal that links researchers, students and teachers across the institution. We’re proud that the genderpol blog will provide a platform for the new hub in 2018.

We’ve been reporting on the under representation of women in Scottish politics and beyond since we started up the blog five years ago. In May Meryl Kenny, Fiona Mackay and Judith Sijstermans  (all University of Edinburgh) posted their latest report: Here We, Here We, Here We … Go (Again): Women and the 2017 Local Government Elections.  Although there was a small rise in the number of female councillors, less than one in three Scottish councillors is a women. A case of another year and another missed opportunity to achieve equal representation in Scottish politics…

In March, on International Women’s Day, we celebrated the end of an ambitious project by University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) to use social media to pose the question What is a Dangerous Woman? 365 days and more than 400 posts later the project succeeded beyond all expectations – and had grown a new global online community. In Reflections on a Year of Dangerous Women: Speaking Out, Listening, Resisting and Persisting! @genderpol’s Fiona Mackay – a member of the Dangerous Women Project Advisory Board – reflected on what a year of Dangerous Women has meant to her.

Thanks for your support and happy reading in 2018!

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Conversation with Emma Ritch, Engender

Christina Neuwirth, 11.12.17

CN: Thank you for taking the time to speak to me today! I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about Engender before we begin?

ER: Sure! Thank you for having me. Engender is Scotland’s feminist and advocacy organisation. Its membership is made up of a combination of organisations and individual. Engender works with other organisations on women’s social, economic, cultural and political equality.

CN: Great, thank you. So, in our email conversation you mentioned that you wanted to talk about primary prevention of sexual harassment. Can you talk a little bit more about that? I think my mind always jumps straight to health care when I hear the words ‘primary prevention,’ so I would be interested in learning more about how it works in this context.

ER: Of course! All primary prevention in terms of violence against women is based on the fact that women’s inequality is what leads to violence against women. In a workplace context that means that we should have mechanisms for reporting, investigation, sanctions when people breach the rules about sexual harassment, but we also need to prevent it in the first place. We can do this by getting rid of stereotypes and creating cultures that enable people to be themselves; creating an environment that is free from micro-aggressions dressed up as “banter”. We need to address the pay gap and the ways in which success is measured. The idea is: how can we make an atmosphere that is hostile to sexual harassment? We need to create an environment that respects women and does not reduce them.

CN: Thank you. If I was an employer, what would be some good practices for me to put in place? For example, I’m thinking that, if there were more women working in management positions, women employees might find it easier to report sexual harassment…?

ER: Yes – but primary prevention would address this before it even becomes an issue, to prevent it happening in the first place. Of course, if you’re an employer, you should have good policies to respond to sexual harassment when it occurs, but you should also be building the capacity of your workforcue to treat women as equal, to remove as many as the barriers to women as you can whether those are inside or outside of the workplace. Look at your whole workplace culture: where do you have your away days? Do you play golf or go to lap dancing bars where women may be made to feel unwelcome? How do you as an employer measure success? Do you solely incentivise risk taking, or do you also incentivize teams, collaboration and mentoring? The hidden, domestic labour that women do at work like making sure that everyone gets a birthday cake, pastoral care in academia – just build in thinking about the full picture of what people need to do at work when you’re thinking about who does well. When it comes to promotions, are you considering people who work part-time or flexible hours? Are you enabling women to work part-time if this suits them? You should encourage them and build their capacity to apply for jobs – as we know, women are less likely to apply when they feel that they don’t meet the full application criteria. Respect the talents and skills of everyone in the organisation and don’t undervalue or stigmatise work – for example, administrative work is often seen as not difficult and not requiring skill, which of course is wholly untrue.

CN: Thank you! Do you have any resources you feel I could link to at the end of this interview for our blog readers, so they can find out more?

ER: Think Business, Think Equality resources are very easy to use and include self-assessment and a tailored action plan. Close the Gap have done a whole set of modules for employers. Their resources can help employers to be better employers of women, specifically.

Christina Neuwirth is co-ordinator of the new gender and sexuality studies hub genderED. She is also a PhD researcher in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling, where she is looking into gender equality in contemporary Scottish writing and publishing.

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ETUC report Safe at Home, Safe at Work

16 Days banner

This blog post by Dr Jane Pillinger is part of our series for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

Dr Jane Pillinger is a gender expert and author of the report ‘Safe at Home, Safe at Work: Trade union strategies to prevent, manage and eliminate workplace harassment and violence against women’. She has carried out research and policy advice on the issue of violence against women at work for the EU, ILO and European and global union federations. Recent work includes co-authoring a resource kit on ‘Gender Based Violence in Global Supply Chains’ for the ITC-ILO, advisory work with the Fair Wear Foundation on measures to tackle violence against women in the garment sector, and author of the report on Violence against women workers in transport for the European Transport Federation. She is currently writing a Guide to tackling violence against women at work for the ILO and UNWomen.

 The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) report ‘Safe at Home, Safe at Work: Trade union strategies to prevent, manage and eliminate workplace harassment and violence against women’ is based on 11 detailed country case studies (Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and the UK) and European-level developments on gender-based violence and harassment at work, including domestic violence at work. The report has raised awareness amongst a wider audience of national and European policy makers about the need for the systematic inclusion of gender when dealing with violence and harassment at work. Gender-based violence and harassment is a form of discrimination that causes significant harm to women, whether it take place in the workplace, in public places, on public transport, in schools and colleges, or in the family. Trade unions have approached the issue in negotiations, collective bargaining, union awareness-raising, training and campaigns, and partnerships with women’s organisations working to end gender-based violence, and there are many good practices in the workplace that show the added value of trade unions actions, innovations and negotiations.

The report was prepared at time of rising violence and harassment against women at work, continued and widening gender inequalities at work, and a culture of sexism in the workplace. In part, this arises because of increasing levels of precarious work across Europe, but continues to exist because the workplace is closely connected to women’s wider roles that extend beyond it in the private domain of the home and family.

The spill-over of domestic violence at work is a new issue for trade union negotiations successfully carried out by unions in Spain, Denmark and to a lesser extent France and the UK. Because domestic violence can involve a wide range of abuses including emotional and financial abuse and ‘coercive control’, it can affect a woman’s capacity to get to work and to participate effectively and productively in the workplace. Trade unions are increasingly recognising the role of the workplace in preventing domestic violence, and the social and economic benefits that result from this. Workplace measures such as temporary paid leave, initial safety planning, changes in work location or parking spaces, and providing information about specialist domestic support organisations and protection orders in cases of stalking in the workplace, are some of the ways in which trade union representatives have supported victims and negotiated measures for their protection and temporary leave from work, particularly when they leave a violent partner. They enable victims to stay in their jobs and retain their financial independence, while also ensuring that workers are safe at work.

Despite many challenges, including working within patriarchal structures and cultures, the report documents the many inspiring and innovative ways in which women and men in trade unions have campaigned against gender-based violence and brought the issue into workplace negotiations, safety and health programmes, and initiatives on wellbeing at work.

The report documents:

  • Over 80 collective bargaining agreements and union negotiated workplace policies, as well as union initiatives to raise awareness, train negotiators and campaign for an end sexual harassment perpetrated by colleagues, managers and third-parties (e.g. violence perpetrated by customers/clients against women workers in restaurants and bars, in health services and in transport).
  • Over 40 examples of collective bargaining agreements and union-negotiated workplace policies on tackling domestic violence at work, as well as awareness raising, training and campaigns carried out by unions, often in partnership with domestic violence organisations.


Despite many of these innovations, the problem seems to be worsening, pointing to the need for stronger legal measures to prevent sexual harassment and violence against women workers. The scale of the problem can be seen in a recent European survey showing shocking levels of harassment and violence against women transport workers across Europe. See: Violence Against Women workers in Transport:

The ETUC and many of its affiliates have long campaigned to end gender-based violence, and it has been a core objective of recent action programmes. One of the objectives of the ETUC’s Action Programme on Gender Equality, 2016-2019, is to contribute to eliminating gender-based violence and harassment at work and to continue to make the link between domestic violence and work-level protection.

The recent high-profile cases of sexual harassment in the media and in politics and in the #MeToo campaign have taken place at a time of significant national, European and international debates about gender-based violence at work. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has made a commitment to introduce a new international standard in 2018 on violence against women and men in the world at work. Trade unions are campaigning to ensure that there is a strong focus on gender-based violence in the new instrument, as seen in the highly visible campaign of the International Trade Union Confederation ‘Stop Gender Based Violence at Work’ []. The ratification by the EU and Member States of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) provides an important framework for an integrated approach to tackling violence against women. The EU ratification of the Convention will need an EU-level legal framework and strategy for implementation.

Conclusions and recommendations

Collective bargaining is one of the most important mechanisms for preventing and addressing violence against women at work, either as part of agreements that address violence against all workers, or in relation to sexual harassment at work, third-party violence or preventing domestic violence at work. However, the general trend towards reduced bargaining coverage and the decentralisation of bargaining puts limits on unions in some countries. A further issue is that, as violence and harassment have become a mainstream safety and health and wellbeing at work issue, there is a danger of it becoming de-gendered. Many unions therefore argue for effective gender mainstreaming strategies that will ensure that violence and harassment are addressed as a structural gender equality issue.

Having a strong legal framework is essential to enabling unions to negotiate concrete sectoral and workplace measures and many unions point to Spain as demonstrating good practice in this respect. The Organic Law 1/2004 on protection from domestic violence seeks to combat acts of violence that are considered discriminatory and includes measures to enable victims of domestic violence to remain in work. This has resulted in many collective bargaining agreements, harassment and violence protocols and gender-equality plans containing provisions on both sexual harassment at work and domestic violence at work.

Raising awareness, and training union negotiators and workplace representatives to have the skills and knowledge to integrate gender-based violence, including domestic violence, is a further priority. Workplace measures need to take account multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination so that the women most at risk of violence are protected. Having women in senior and decision-making roles, and as key negotiators in collective bargaining teams, is vital to ensuring that the issues are raised in negotiations. Some unions have used model agreements as a way of raising awareness and give negotiators appropriate language to be used in negotiations.

Ten things that the ETUC and ETUC affiliates can do to tackle gender-based violence and harassment at work.

  1. Prioritise sectoral and company-based social dialogue between unions and employers, jointly agreeing workplace policies, procedures and awareness raising actions amongst managers and workers.
  2. Ensure that women are in senior negotiating positions, as this has been shown to be critical to getting issues of gender-based violence and harassment onto bargaining agendas, particularly in male-dominated sectors.
  3. Produce guidance and model workplace policies, and train workplace representatives to negotiate agreements and policies to tackle violence and sexual harassment at work, third- party violence, and the prevention of domestic violence at work.
  4. Ensure that safety and health and wellbeing at work initiatives include a strong gender-based focus on the causes of and solutions to harassment and violence against women at work, and that they take into account gender inequalities and discrimination.
  5. Give information and support to workers experiencing gender-based violence and harassment and domestic violence.
  6. Work in partnership with NGOs and specialist violence against women organisations, for example in carrying out campaigns and union surveys to raise awareness about the extent and nature of gender-based violence at work.
  7. Encourage women and men in leadership, negotiating and decision-making positions to raise public awareness and act as champions for a zero-tolerance approach to violence against women.
  8. Highlight the economic and social case for tackling violence at work, including the business arguments such as improving workplace relations, enhancing wellbeing at work, retaining workers, reducing absence from work, and increasing motivation and productivity.
  9. Lobby for the inclusion of effective measures to address gender-based violence at work and domestic violence at work in governments’ national action plans on violence against women, in the implementation of the Istanbul Convention and the proposed ILO instrument on violence against women and men in the world of work.
  10. Implement measures to include and address gender-based violence and harassment in European sectoral social dialogue agreements and joint statements.


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