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Panos calls for more attention to sexual harassment of women

THE Panos Institute Southern Africa says more attention should be paid to challenges such as sexual harassment, which not only hinder women from getting to the top, but also prevent them from accessing opportunities that can help them realise or demonstrate their worth.

In a message to mark international Women’s Day which falls today, PSAf executive director Lilian Saka Kiefer said in some cases, the sexual harassment was in the form of negative, sexist labelling of women aspiring for or holding leadership positions.

Kiefer said Panos views the commemoration of International Women’s Day (IWD) as an opportunity to uplift and promote positive facts and opinions about women.

“This year’s IWD theme, #BalanceforBetter, is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world to create a better world for us all. It provides an opportunity to reflect on why gender balance is important for both men and women and that both men and women must work together to achieve gender balance for a better world. In the same spirit, the UN Women’s theme for the 2019 IWD is ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’. The theme is amplifying the need for technologically innovative ways, and smart ways in which we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure,” she said.

Kiefer said despite the existence of various international, regional and national commitments and instruments to emancipate women, there was a myriad harmful stereotypes that were influencing society to regard and treat women in ways that erode their dignity. She said society was generally inclined to believe that women were not meant to be leaders. She said these stereotypes create a glass ceiling preventing women from getting to the top.

“As a result of the glass ceiling, women have to work twice as hard, but even then, they are not trusted and therefore denied opportunities to get to the top. In addition, the landscape does not favour women, as they are denied opportunities to education, and have limited opportunities to access resources such as finances to aid their advancement. The glass ceiling also causes women to be meek, such that even when opportunities arise, they defer to men,” she said.

“Panos also calls for more attention to be paid to challenges such as sexual harassment, which not only hinder women from getting to the top, but also hinders them from accessing opportunities that can help them realise or demonstrate their worth. In some cases, the sexual harassment is in the form of negative, sexist labelling of women aspiring for or holding leadership positions.”

She said attention must also be paid to the legal and policy landscape relating to the empowerment of women.

“To that effect, Panos advocates for laws and policies that favour women, such as laws to address child marriage and advance access to education for girls. Panos also facilitates platforms for citizens to hold the State to account on international commitments and instruments that seek to empower women. These include the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA), and the Maputo Protocol, among others,” said Kiefer.

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