Founder and Director of Magommake Ltd, Tryphosa Ramano sits on the board as a Director of the International Women’s Forum of South Africa (IWFSA). The topic of GBVF is very close to her heart. In this article, she sheds light on the various aspects of tackling GBVF in the workplace.
In conversation with Tryphosa Ramano: GBVF in the Workplace
GBVF is a scourge in South Africa, with many women not being safe on the streets, in their homes and in their places of work. Government has recently announced long-awaited measures to address the issue on many levels, but what can corporates do to address the issue that is being felt across our entire society?
As Director and board member of IWFSA, Ramano says the organisation is lobbying corporate boards to make sure that GBVF policy is made a priority in companies throughout the country.
She says that from a private sector point of view, there are various aspects to consider in light of the GBVF pandemic, and there are a number of actions that companies can take. In her view, it is important to push for the JSE to endorse the National Strategic Priorities Plan (NSP 2017-2022) and recommend that listed companies support the plan.
According to Ramano, it’s imperative that no-one who has been convicted of GBVF ever occupies a leadership position.
“We are lobbying for the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission CPIC, and the Registrar of Companies, to make sure that, when you are registering to be the director of a company, you must disclose whether you been convicted of GBVF. You must never occupy a position of senior leadership in the private sector or in government.”
We are lobbying for the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission CPIC, and the Registrar of Companies, to make sure that, when you are registering to be the director of a company, you must disclose whether you been convicted of GBVF. You must never occupy a position of senior leadership in the private sector or in government.
She says the other important aspect her lobby group is pushing for is informed by the terms of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which has advocated for companies to have policies around violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, and also a register of sexual offences in the workplace.
“The International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the Convention 190 referred to as ‘ILO C190’ which provides for the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment. South Africa is a member state of ILO and government need to prioritize the ratification of C190 as soon as possible,” says Ramano.
Gender Pay Gap
The gender pay gap issue is another issue that needs to continue to be a priority for corporations and government organisations alike.
“For us, equal pay, equal work. It’s also part of violence. Women have been violated if you are not being paid the same amount as your male counterpart who is doing the same job,” says Ramano. “We have proved enough that we can do the work. It is now time to be able to action and to know why we are in this position, to push the women’s agenda and make sure that inequalities in the workplace are eliminated.”
She says that one of the other items that IWFSA is pushing for is the issue of shelter in the workplace.
“GBVF affects productivity. Normally, most of the abuse happens over the weekend. A woman has been violated over the weekend and then has excuses for why she can’t come to work on Monday, because her face is bruised and all of that. That affects productivity.”
“At the same time, sometimes they don’t know where to go. They leave the house, they don’t have a place to stay with the children and they end up not coming to work. So we are saying that organisations must have policies in terms of providing shelter for their employees who are being abused in their homes. Temporary shelter while they are busy reorganising themselves. Then they are not actually affecting productivity in the workplace.”
GBVF affects productivity. Normally, most of the abuse happens over the weekend. A woman has been violated over the weekend and then has excuses for why she can’t come to work on Monday, because her face is bruised and all of that. That affects productivity.
Ramano says one organisation she knows of in the private sector has already put in place policies of shelter for victims of GBVF in the workplace.
She says companies need to consider all aspects of GBVF, and the fact that employees may be perpetrators, so there needs to be policies in place to deal with this too.
“When you talk to some of the organisations, in the private sector, especially in the mining industry, their challenge is that some of the abusers are actually employees. When you draft policies you need to be very careful how you put it together. How do you help the abuser in the workplace to make sure they don’t do it again? Because we all know that anybody who abuses, they all have psychological problems and they have been abused themselves, as a child.”
She says companies need to enhance their policies to make sure they include GBVF, including sexual harassment in the workplace, and these policies MUST include LGBTQI employees.
In her view, when it comes to corruption, the issue of “sextortion” falls under the corruption banner.
“For a woman to get a tender, or to be a service provider to a company or to occupy a particular position, then you have to lift your skirt up before you get it. That is sextortion, it is corruption and is part of GBVF,” says Ramano, “We need to make sure companies have those policies so that even the senior people who commit these acts will face the full ambit of the law and they should never work in positions of power ever again.”
Training and Awareness are Key
She says that HR departments need training around GBVF, but that leadership starts at the top.
“Remember that leadership starts from the top. It starts with the Board of Directors, which must approve in principle that we need to have these policies, and then the Social and Ethics Committee should be able to drive that to make sure they get implemented by management. And management can then delegate to Human Resources. As Human Resources adopts these policies, as well as in the implementation, they would also need further training on the issue of gender-based violence.”
She says that training around GBVF needs to be done holistically, it must start with the board members and then be rolled out through the entire company. Awareness programmes should also be a priority, and letting everyone know their rights is key in empowering women in the workplace.
Now more than ever, mental wellbeing needs to be a priority for corporates and having open communication lines is essential.
“The same way as employees have learnt about employment equity, about cultural diversity, and about Covid-19, so they should learn about GBVF. This should be as part of awareness, as part of prevention, so that people should not feel ashamed when they get to the workplace to say I am exposed to this. Women should get as much support as they can in the workplace, and it’s time for companies to step up to the challenges of this violent society in which we live and work.”
The same way as employees have learnt about employment equity, about cultural diversity, and about Covid-19, so they should learn about GBVF. This should be as part of awareness, as part of prevention, so that people should not feel ashamed when they get to the workplace to say I am exposed to this.
Tryphosa Ramano is the Past-President of African Women Chartered Accountants
(AWCA) and Past-President of ABSIP ( Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals).