Womantra and 2Cents movement have both survived firestorms of social media criticism that they allegedly mishandled accusations of either sexual harassment, gender-based violence or sexual grooming perpetrated by persons in positions of leadership.
Ironically, both organisations are engaged in much-needed work that can fundamentally change our cultural landscape, but they risk being perceived as part of our systems of oppression.
In both instances, they have responded by setting up unique processes to deal with complaints. While this might seem like a bureaucratic response, the problem-solving process often begins with data collection. At the end of the process, it is anticipated that all concerned will have had the opportunity to reflect on their actions and begin the healing process, which should ignite a behaviour change.
Even if the process is successful within these two organisations, nothing significantly positive will happen without major changes in our operating context and ‘therein lies the rub’. The firestorms at these two organisations merely reflect our wider society and again flag the need to approach sexual harassment and gender-based violence in a structured, systematic manner.
News headlines are replete with examples of persons being abused and or violated because of their gender. How long will we hide behind the lethargy of parliament to pass legislation and implement policy?
In January 2019, The Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Human Rights, Equality and Diversity discussed sexual harassment, and among their several recommendations was that the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development (MLSED) incorporate in ‘the sexual harassment policy a procedural mechanism for anonymous reports to protect the identity of persons who have reported cases of sexual harassment’.
If this were our reality, the victims in these organisations would have had a voice and a mechanism to tell their stories and move towards resolution.
Another very forward-leaning recommendation in the report is that the definition of ‘worker’ should be widened to capture volunteer workers who provide a service without hire or reward.
The policy and recommendations of the JSC are wide-ranging, well researched and inclusive, but the whole issue is being stymied by our national implementation deficit. Even when policies are established, they are often not implemented quickly, or even at all.
The time is running out on us hiding behind the notion that ‘things take long in this country’. They take long because of the absence of leadership committed to making a difference. Removing bottlenecks is a normal and expected part of leading any organisation or country.
Governments are elected to solve problems, and this problem has been plaguing us for too long. While companies and organisations must do their part to enhance their operating environments, a legislative framework is determined, and can only be structured, by governments.
Trinidad and Tobago is at a stage where our thorny problems are beginning to ‘jook hard’ from every direction. We must find the courage to tackle each problem while bringing along our citizens on the journey towards becoming the most efficient little island in the universe.