15,546 members of the British public call for global treaty to end workplace harassment

London (May 22, 2018) — Advocates with the global poverty-fighting organisation CARE International UK yesterday delivered a letter to the Department for Work and Pensions, calling for the first international standards protecting women and men against sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.

The petition, signed by more than 15,500 people in the UK, is part of the #ThisIsNotWorking campaign that has garnered more than 120,000 signatures globally – from France and the US to Australia and Ecuador – in advance of a critical International Labour Organisation (ILO) meeting that begins next week in Geneva. There, labour leaders from around the world will decide whether to create the landmark legal framework making clear that working free from violence is as fundamental as the right to bathroom breaks and overtime pay.

The campaign follows research carried out by CARE last year in Cambodia, which found that one in three women garment workers in the country had experienced sexual harassment on the factory floor in the course of 12 months.

More than a third of the world’s countries have no laws against workplace sexual abuse or harassment, leaving nearly 235 million women vulnerable on the job. And even in countries that do, lax enforcement and pronounced power imbalances between men and women have allowed a global epidemic of workplace harassment to persist. 

CARE International UK is calling on the Minister for Employment, Alok Sharma MP, who will be representing the UK at the conference, to vote for a convention that is:
• Legally binding;
• Explicitly includes the most vulnerable workers such as domestic workers;
• Ensures companies adhere to standards throughout their supply chains.

Garment worker Sophea*, 18, from Cambodia’s Kampong Cham province, said:

I didn’t even know this guy, and he started touching me. It was so inappropriate. I told him to stop, but he didn’t listen and continued to do it. I told my sister and my line leader. They just told me to avoid him – that’s all they said. My co-workers blame me for what he did. I’ve only been working here for a few months.

Laurie Lee, CEO of CARE International UK, said:

Nobody should face harassment, abuse and violence in the workplace. Women in precarious, insecure work will often find it harder to speak out about such unacceptable behaviour. It doesn’t help that more than a third of countries do not have laws prohibiting sexual harassment at work. The scale of the #MeToo movement shows that there is appetite to end sexual harassment in the workplace. There is currently a rare opportunity to make this happen - we must join together and back this global convention.

Helen Pankhurst, Senior Gender Adviser, CARE International UK, and descendant of the leaders of the suffragette movement, said:

The heightened determination among women galvanised by the #MeToo movement presents us with a once-in-a-generation challenge: to come up with a lasting solution to sexual harassment in the workplace, that works for all women, everywhere. And an ILO convention is the opportunity we need to make this happen. Let's enshrine protection for women and girls in the workplace in global law, because as things stand, #ThisIsNotWorking. Please sign our letter and add your voice to our campaign.


Michelle Nunn, CARE president and CEO, said:

The real promise of the #MeToo movement isn’t in bringing down dozens of powerful men in the United States but rather in lifting up millions of women around the world. Gender-based violence is a cause and consequence of poverty and gender inequality. Yet it remains a hidden, even taboo, issue in many countries. We need to change that, and the ILO framework is a solid step to doing just that.

Establishing a legal framework, such as the standard the ILO will take up next week, is the first step towards building accountability on this issue globally. CARE supports the ILO and its efforts to protect women workers around the world, from maids in Latin America to factory workers in places like Cambodia and Vietnam to field workers across Africa. 

CARE is a leading humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor women and girls because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. Last year, CARE worked in 94 countries and reached more than 80 million people around the world. To learn more, please visit www.care.org and www.care-international.org.

Media contact:

Emily Wight, Senior Press Officer (Programmes and Policy), +442070916063, wight@careinternational.org 

Ruby Wright, Press and PR Manager: +442080916047, wright@careinternational.org 

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