GENEVA AND CANBERRA: Aid agency CARE Australia is celebrating a win for women everywhere – and especially the most marginalised – after governments, businesses and unions today passed the first global agreement on ending violence and harassment at work.
The outcome follows intense negotiations at the International Labour Organization – the UN agency responsible for workplace issues – and years of campaigning by CARE and other organisations.
Almost 5,000 Australians signed CARE’s latest petition on the topic, which was sent to the Australian Government ahead of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s attendance at negotiations in Geneva.
CARE Australia CEO Sally Moyle said the historic agreement was a global response to a global problem.
“Over the past few years, more and more women have been publicly speaking up about sexual violence and harassment and holding perpetrators to account,” Ms Moyle said.
“But around the world, too many women are denied the power to speak out against abuse because there are no laws to back them up, and they’re working in precarious jobs paying poverty wages.”
A recent report from CARE Australia highlighted the fact that almost 235 million women work in countries where workplace sexual harassment isn’t currently against the law.
In Cambodia, almost 1 in 3 clothing factory workers said they had been sexually harassed in the past year, while in India, 39 per cent of men said it was sometimes or always acceptable to wolf-whistle or catcall a co-worker.
Ms Moyle said the agreement provided a much-needed international standard on the rights of workers and the obligations of governments and employers.
“This is a momentous step towards safer workplaces and women’s rights. CARE is particularly pleased the agreement will cover informal workers such as maids in private homes and other women working without formal contracts, as they are at highest risk of abuse.”
“There is still much work ahead for governments to ratify the agreement and incorporate it into national laws, and CARE will continue to play an important role in this work, from boardrooms to factory floors.”
CARE, which is an international aid agency with a focus on women and girls, works in countries including Cambodia and Bangladesh to educate workers about their rights and help employers make workplaces safer.
Over the past two years, CARE has rallied almost a quarter of a million people worldwide to sign petitions or attend events calling on governments and businesses to support a strong global agreement.
High-profile supporters include former Eurythmics musician and social activist Annie Lennox, who called it “a seismic moment to tackle violence and sexual harassment around the world”.
Speaking from the conference in Geneva on Tuesday, Australia’s Employment Minister Michaelia Cash spoke of the Government’s commitment to stamping out gender based violence in workplaces through partnerships with organisations including CARE Australia.
For interviews with CARE Australia spokespeople contact Iona Salter on 0412 449 691.
Images are available for download here. Background information on the women pictured is here.
Notes to editors