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Women’s rights and anti-harassment policies in the workplace

The Association for Liberty and Equality of Gender – A.L.E.G, called on public and private institutions to develop internal mechanisms to prevent and report sexual harassment at the workplace and, thus, securing a place in Sibiu’s Employers White Chart for Respect. The call was launched during the Employers for Respect conference, which took place on October 17th 2019.

“Through this White Chart, we want women to have a tool that can inform them about safe workplaces. One can be subjected to harassment anywhere. What is important is that employers take a strong stance against this phenomenon, rather than ignoring it. The White Chart is open to all employers from Sibiu and A.L.E.G. will offer free consultancy services for employers to develop relevant procedures to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace until January 2020”, declares Camelia Proca, the Association’s director.

The conference took place at Sibiu County Council, which is already working on an internal anti-harassment policy. 19 employers – including Sibiu city hall, hospitals and private companies – attended the event, which included both advocacy and educational sessions. The participants were introduced to the latest legal updates regarding gender equality in the workplace and the forms of harassment, and discussed a series of case studies. Mihaela Petian, the president of the Romanian Employers’ Union (Sibiu branch) welcomed this initiative: “By tackling this issue [sexual harassment in the workplace], by equipping employers with these important pieces of information, which can then be conveyed towards employees, hopefully this toxic phenomenon will be substantially reduced”.

According to the latest available research, in Romania, women under 30 years old are most affected by this form of harassment. The new methodological norms concerning the application of the law regarding equal opportunities and treatment among women and men oblige employers to develop internal policies to prevent and report sexual harassment. These norms also encourage employers to appoint one staff member to be responsible of gender equality issues in the workplace. A.L.E.G. has also launched a mobile exhibition about women’s rights in Romania, which employers can temporally host, for free, and use it as an informative tool for their employees, to find out more about the evolution of equality between men and women in Romania.

The Employers for Respect conference was organized as part of the 14th edition of the Gender Equality Festival. Under the motto “Feminism is for me too”, the Festival sought to show that when women and girls are safe and are treated fairly, they can reach their full potential and, thus, the entire society wins.

“Violence against women is an essential file that Romania has to close if it wants to become a modern society” and it is everyone’s business to stop tolerating violence, declared the poet Radu Vancu, as a conclusion of the “What men can do for women” panel discussion, which took place at Sibio café – a café that is openly against sexism, racism and xenophobia.

The Festival included other activities, such as a course about women’s rights and a presentation of the With and For Girls Awards. As a winner of the 2016 edition of the Awards, which celebrate civic activism with and for girls, A.L.E.G. organized this year the final selection of the 2019 winning organizations. The panel, which decides the winning organizations that will win awards between $5,000 and $50,000, was composed of five girls from Romania, which interviewed 10 shortlisted organizations from Europe and Central Asia. In this way, the organizers of the With and For Girls Awards are genuinely including girls in decision-making. The award ceremony will take place in the spring of 2020, in London.

The Festival ended at the Horizontal Newspaper (near the Radu Stanca National Theatre), where adolescents had the opportunity to create feminist messages, together with artist Dan Perjovschi. The Newspaper has now a new page, where pedestrians can read, among others: “19 hours” – a message referring to the long time that authorities needed to respond in the Alexandra Maceseanu case – and “No means no” – referring to the sexual violence and victim blaming.

The funds for the Festival were gathered through the Sibiu International Marathon, organized by Fundatia Comunitara Sibiu, with the support of over 100 runners and donors. For the advocacy events, the funds were covered by a Women Deliver Young Leaders grant. With and For Girls financed the activities dedicated to youth.