International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Leading by example in addressing sexual harassment and abuse at the work place

Date: Monday, December 24, 2018

The meeting brought together UN Leadership from the UN Office in Nairobi, UN Habitat, UN Environment, UN Women Kenya, UN Resident Coordinator, members of the UN Country Team and UN Staff . Photo: UN Women/ Faith Bwibo
The meeting brought together UN Leadership from the UN Office in Nairobi, UN Habitat, UN Environment, UN Women, UN Resident Coordinator, members of the UN Country Team and UN Staff . Photo: UN Women/ Faith Bwibo

As the world commemorated the global campaign on 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, the UN family in Nairobi, under the leadership of UN Women Kenya and Resident Coordinator’s Office, organized a joint town hall meeting on addressing sexual harassment and abuse at the workplace.

The meeting brought together UN Leadership from the UN Office in Nairobi, UN Habitat, UN Environment, UN Women Kenya, UN Resident Coordinator, members of the UN Country Team and UN Staff and Contractors.

Under the global theme of Orange the World: #HearMeToo, UN Leadership in Nairobi engaged in a conversation with UN staff and contractors based in Nairobi, on issues of sexual harassment and abuse at the workplace, with an aim of enhancing awareness on existing mechanisms to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and abuse.

This follows the commitment of the Secretary-General and UN system leaders to a zero-tolerance approach to tackling sexual harassment, to strengthening victim-centred prevention and response efforts, and fostering a safe and inclusive working environment across the UN system.

In her opening remarks, the UN Women Country Director, Ms. Zebib Kavuma, stressed on the need for survivors of gender-based violence to be heard under the slogan #HearMeToo. She noted that the actions of the UN are governed by the values and norms set out in the UN Charter, hence the importance of ensuring a safe workspace for UN staff and contractors.

The Leadership with UN Office in Nairobi, UN Habitat and UN Environment called for an end to sexual harassment in the workplace and referred to the Secretary General’s policy on zero tolerance to sexual exploitation and abuse. Concerns were raised over incidences of power dynamics where staff members and supervisors have abused their authority by sexually harassing interns and consultants who do not have reliable contractual modalities.

An attendee takes notes during the Townhall. Photo: UN Women/ Faith Bwibo
An attendee takes notes during the Townhall. Photo: UN Women/ Faith Bwibo

In line with the UN Secretary-General’s strategy to improve the Organization’s system-wide approach to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse, UN Agencies and programmes are expected to prioritize the needs of the victim, end impunity, engage with civil society and external partners, and improve strategic communication for education and transparency.

To operationalize the Secretary-General’s strategy at the country-level, the UN System in Kenya has established a Coordination Network on Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) to coordinate Agency-level initiatives and reporting on preventing and responding to sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse. The Network is required to provide regular updates to the UN Country Team to ensure their accountability to ensuring a zero tolerance to sexual harassment and abuse.

Through a panel discussion, representatives from WFP, UN Office in Nairobi, UN Women, UNAIDS and the UN Nairobi Staff Union shared best practices of existing policies and mechanisms to address issues of sexual harassment and abuse at the workplace, approaches for creating safe workplace environment for staff and contractors at the UN Compound in Nairobi, and mechanisms for protecting survivors against retaliation.

As a way forward, the townhall resolved on the need to establish a UNON-wide reporting mechanism where staff and contractors can report on sexual harassment and abuse. It was equally agreed that information on the contact details of PSEA focal points and existing reporting mechanisms would be made available to all staff and contractors,