Call for Women Health Workers to Share Experiences of Sexual Harassment and Violence
Women HCWs experience sexual harassment at workplace.
Two women healthcare workers caring for an infant.

A significant number of women health care workers are being driven from the professional because of sexual harassment, and Women in Global Health (WGH) collecting their testimonies.

There are no laws against sexual harassment at workplace in over 50 countries, and WGH has called for a ‘change at all levels’ of the ecosystem. 

The organisation recently announced their research project, “HealthToo”, to document testimonies of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEAH) experienced by women health care workers across the globe. 

WGH will be accepting testimonies from women healthcare workers till 30 November, and intends to publish the data and findings by December. 

The intention of the project is to address the gap in the data of SEAH across the world and draw attention to the issue that has caused several women to leave the workforce. Women constitute around 70% of the global health care workforce and that the workforce is already short-staffed. 

Dr Ann Keeling, a senior fellow at WGH, said that the lack of comparable data and consistency in the terminology used prompted this project to take shape. 

“When you try and chart this, you can’t get any consistent picture and what isn’t visible in data is easy to ignore. So there is this very widespread denial about the extent of this among policymakers,” she told Health Policy Watch

“This is the time now to use women’s testimonies as data and get a platform out there where we can lock these stories, so that this will no longer be invisible.”

The testimonies collected from women healthcare workers will be made public on the WGH website. 

“We are aiming to have a geographic representation of testimonies on the website,” said Dr Kalkidan Lakew, a policy associate at WGH. “We do not want to concentrate on a specific country but want to show that this happens everywhere – high income country, low income country, hospitals, organisations and NGOs,” she said. 

Pointing to the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s convention on violence and harassment, referred to as C190, the researchers said that the end goal is to get as many countries as possible to sign up to the convention. 

The convention, which has been ratified by 20 countries and is in force in eight, defines violence and harassment at the workplace and encourages countries to set up their own legislative framework to address SEAH at the workplace. 

“ILO’s C190 defines what harassment and violence is and recognises it as a human rights abuse. So, for the first time we actually have a framework that every country can sign up to,” Keeling explained, adding that a “change is needed at all levels of the ecosystem.”

Image Credits: Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash.

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