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Fighting for justice in the workplace


On the fourth anniversary of the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention (ILO C190), we are spotlighting ActionAid's incredible campaigning and fight for a world free from violence and harassment in the workplace.  

There is never a place for violence or harassment at work, and ALL workers have the right to decent work

So, what is ILO C190?

 In 2019, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the first international treaty seeking to end violence and harassment in the workplace.

The legal instrument acknowledges the injustices against workers and the physical, phycological, sexual and economic harm that violence and harassment can cause. It has one primary aim to END all forms of violence and harassment in the world of work.

The issue is gendered. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) affects women and girls disproportionately. Women migrant and domestic workers are often caught in the centre of intersecting and many forms of discrimination, which can increase their vulnerability to human rights abuse. The legal instrument acknowledges these biases and recognises the need for a gender-responsive approach.

Violence and harassment are counter-productive to the promotion of the Decent Work agenda. Across the federation and in collaboration with partners and allies, ActionAid is campaigning for the universal ratification of ILO C190 to ensure workers' rights are legally protected. As of 15 June, only thirty-one countries have ratified C190.

Here's what we have been up to

In Nepal, ActionAid Nepal has consistently dedicated its efforts towards empowering women, particularly in ensuring their safety in both public and private sectors. Workplace harassment, violence, and occupational health are significant areas of concern. The team and partners, including ActionAid Ireland, are actively advocating for improved conditions, and raising awareness. Although the Nepalese government has implemented various legislative measures to address issues related to gender-based violence and harassment, the intended impact of these laws has not been fully realised. 

ActionAid Nepal continues to push for the ratification of C190.

"Collaborative efforts play a vital role in advancing the fight against gender-based harassment and violence." 

Nisha, ActionAid Nepal Women's Rights Lead

Since adopting the ratification, ActionAid France, along with Care France, Human Rights Watch France, General Confederation of Labour (CGT), and other alliances, proactively launched various advocacy and mobilisation campaigns calling on the government to ratify C190. Three years later, in 2021, the French government ordered the convention's ratification. AA France acknowledges the injustices in supply chains; one of the primary goals is to connect the ILO C190 to the working conditions of women who work in supply chains, advocating for an ambitious articulation between our due diligence law and the C190 ratification.

"We don't see a win in fighting only for the rights of women in France; we advocate for an effective convention in France that could be of use to all the workers working in supply chains of French multinationals" 

Salma, ActionAid France, Women's Rights Lead.

ActionAid Ghana kickstarted their advocacy on ILO C190 in 2019, collaborating with many allies, labour unions and partners, including the Trade Union Congress of Ghana and ActionAid UK. The team launched a policy brief Falling Through the Crackswhich revealed 71.5% of women in Ghana had experienced violence. With funding from the Young Urban Women's ProjectCombatting Modern Slavery Project and Zero Violence Project, the team in Ghana continue to raise awareness and organise workshops, events, and training. Via the young urban women's project in Ghana, the team organised marches to regional administrations and presented petitions to the regional ministers, which were forwarded to the Ministry of Labour and Gender, calling for the ratification of ILO C190.

"This work requires funding. We are lucky to have funding from different sources to do this work and push the advocacy process further."

Margaret Brew-Ward, ActionAid Ghana's Women Rights and Campaign Manager (2016 – 2023)

In 2019, ActionAid UK General Election Campaign called for the UK Government to stand up for women's and girls' rights. They asked UK campaigners to email their prospective parliamentary candidates and urge them to commit to supporting ratification of the treaty. They collaborated with allies and Trade Unions to encourage greater urgency and movement. The team partnered with ActionAid Ghana and ActionAid Arab Region. The UK ratified the convention in 2022.

"Of course, each political context is different, but for AAUK, leveraging scandals like #MeToo and associated trials, as well as the 'Presidents Club Dinner' was useful, as well as allying with the trade union movement given all its expertise in workers' rights and campaign power. One thing to keep an eye out for - as important as ratification is the extent to which Governments comply with the treaty after ratification."

Tasha, ActionAid UK, Senior Women's Rights Campaign's Specialist

AA Hellas launched a successful campaign and report, Not Part of Our Jobin 2020. The research looked at violence and harassment against women in the workplace. The findings revealed that 94% of women employed in the catering and tourism sector have either heard of, witnessed, and/or suffered sexual harassment in the workplace. This report, shared with government officials and stakeholders, gained popularity and media attention as it coincided with the Greek #MeToo movement. The campaign participated in training professionals about sexual harassment and violence in the world of work. In 2021, Greece ratified the convention.

"Dependent on the context, evidence-based activities are always of added value and should be used in policy-related asks."

Matta Samiou, Campaigns and Gender Programs Manager, ActionAid Hellas

ActionAid Nigeria engaged in joint campaigns with the Nigerian Labour Congress and Solidarity Centre. In 2022 the Nigerian government ratified the convention. ActionAid Ethiopia is actively campaigning for workers' rights. The team worked collaboratively with the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) and other partners to advance the decent work agenda, including the ratification of ILO C190. Under the Zero Violence Project in Rwanda, ActionAid Rwanda conducted a study to review existing policies and laws and identify gaps. Based on the findings, recommendations were shared with key stakeholders and policymakers towards the ratification of ILO C190. 

In 2021, ActionAid Bangladesh and its partners organised an offline campaign strategy. Women from different workplaces created a human chain demanding safe working environments and the ratification of ILO C190. To amplify the voice of all workers, the team launched 'Indomitable', an online campaign raising awareness of gender-based violence at work. AA Bangladesh's workers' café is a community hub for workers, especially women garment workers. Attendees receive advisory and legal services on violence and harassment in the workplace.

 "Worker's café has given me moral strength and taught me about labour laws and women's rights",

Nurjan, garment worker and survivor of sexual harassment at work.

Women workers are still experiencing discrimination including violence and harassment. Ratifying the convention is one step closer to achieving decent work for all. Has your government ratified ILO C190? Join us in our fight for justice and a workplace free from violence and harassment.