Since incidents of violence and hostility against women leaders are being increasingly reported from the panchayats, and non- cooperation by colleagues and even government officials at work demoralizing elected women representatives further, it was necessary to inform all stakeholders in the PRI system about the underlying notions of such unfairness and means of redress as well. To this end, a 2-day workshop on ‘Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at the Workplace and PRI’ was organized by The Hunger Project, in collaboration with Partners for Law in Development (PLD), on the 29th and 30th of May, at Bhubaneswar.
Around 35 participants including EWRs, partner NGOs and members of Women’s Cell, Kalahandi, attended the workshop. Ms. Geeta Ramaseshan, Senior Advocate, Chennai High Court & Member, PLD, and Ms. Bisakha Bhanja of NAWO, Orissa, facilitated the workshop as resource persons.
The session on gender was facilitated by Ms. Bisakha Bhanja, NAWO, Orissa, who delineated the various aspects wherein gender stereotypes are reinforced. Interweaving games amid analyses of the various roles, work allocations and the values assigned to them, experiences of and expectations from each, and the link between male/female identities and the concept of gender, the difference between experiences of men and women being a result of societal imposition rather than a natural prerequisite was brought home to participants in course of the discussion.
The session was facilitated by Ms. Geeta Ramaseshan who explained the various aspects of the proposed “Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill” clearly. Giving an account of the factors leading to the proposed bill, she informed participants about the Bhanwari Devi case in Rajasthan which triggered a nation wide reaction among all rights activists, and the Vishakha vs. State of Rajasthan order. The salient features of the bill – about what constitutes sexual harassment, definition of workplace, difference between organized and unorganized sectors, authorities/bodies responsible for redress of such grievances etc. were also clearly explained by her.