The unsung tales of GBV in the world of work

The unsung tales of GBV in the world of work

I am a well known professional lady who has lived under the façade of a happy marriage for 17 years. Whenever my husband gets drunk, he comes violent such that he kicks and punches me in front of our children, forces me to sleep with him and always threatens to kill me. He claims that educated women are stubborn and do not listen or submit to their husbands. At one time, I had to lie to my colleague that I had been attacked by a gang of robbers. I felt sorry for him, I felt sorry for my children. I do not have anyone to turn to. Whenever I tell my parents about this, they tell me not to reveal the messiness of my home to the world. After all, chakafukidza dzimba matenga. A married woman is more honorable than a divorced woman according to our culture. I now find it hard to concentrate at work and this is affecting the quality of my work.

After two years of dating, I finally found the strength to leave my abusive boyfriend. From the outside, he looked well put together but on the inside he was the devil’s agent! He came to my workplace to harass and threaten me and always caused a scene. He stalked me and threatened every person I would talk to. Did I mention that I nearly lost my life one I decided to leave him? I had applied for a Protection Order against him and it was granted. Days later, he paid me an unexpected visit at my home. He always used to say that if he cannot have me then no one else will. He poured petrol on me and on my 2 year old son and set us alight. I survived with burns and permanent ugly scars but my son’s little soul succumbed to the pain and damage. Death separated us. He committed suicide. He denied me my justice and his actions took away the life of my son!

I lost my job in a well accredited firm because I rejected my female boss’s sexual advancements towards me. She then framed a case against me stating that I had embezzled company funds. I was asked to return the money and to further resign from the job. Fearing going to jail as I knew that I was dealing with a powerful and well connected woman, I decided to sell my most prized possessions so as to give her the money she claimed I had stolen. I would rather have my freedom. As for the money, one day my God will fight for me.

I am a young woman who is also a mother to two beautiful children. When my husband who was the sole breadwinner died, his family rejected me and my children and took all of our possessions. I got a job as a maid in the city and I was excited to be finally financially able to cater for my children’s needs. I did not know that I was walking straight into the lion’s den I was raped repeatedly by my boss and he would constantly threaten to kill me if I ever reported. I fell pregnant for my boss and I lost my job in the process when his wife found out. She does not understand me at all. She thinks that I was having an affair with her husband yet I fell prey to his unchaste desires. Now I carry three little innocent lives in my heart and in my hands despite the fact that I feel resentment towards my life.

I am a young married professional who was interning at a good company. I fell pregnant within the first year of working there. Though this was some exciting personal news, my pregnancy did not sit well with my boss. Every little mistake I would do was accompanied by hurting comments. He would say it was not his problem that I decided to get pregnant whilst I was still establishing my career and would disregard doctors orders by stating that the doctor was not his boss and if I needed to keep my job I had to work and this involved lifting heavy documents and boxes and walking long distances to go and pick up various documents at different offices. I fell gravely ill and lost my baby to high blood pressure. To make matters worse, I was forced to resign from the job. I have lost everything that was so dear to me. My husband is unforgiving about what happened to me and this has raised tensions in our home.

All the above stories plus a million more reflect the many faces of GBV which occur in the world of work. However, although both men and women experience GBV at work, the most affected by it are women and their stories are shaped by their socioeconomic statuses influenced by their sexuality, position at work and immigration status in some circumstances. GBV occurring elsewhere, particularly in the home spills over into the workplace as the affected individual loses concentration at work and is prone to performing poorly at work, stigma and discrimination and this results in the individual losing their job.

Let us stop GBV and  make the workplace a safe realm for all lives!


Explaining gender discrimination and sexual harassment for women in the mining sector

Explaining gender discrimination and sexual harassment for women in the mining sector

By Nomathemba Ndlovu

Gender discrimination and sexual harassment could affect women’s psychological health, generating stress-related reactions such as emotional trauma, anxiety, depression, anger and low self-esteem and also affect their physical health, causing stress-related diseases such as sleep disorders, headaches, stomach problems and ulcers (Mining Safety, 2013)

According to Pons and Deale (2010) sexual harassment is regarded as ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’ and may include ‘unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct’.

  • Physical conduct of a sexual nature refers to all unwanted physical contact, for example, brushing up against a person, touching a person, forced fondling (Grobler, Wärnich, Carrel, Elbert and Hatfield, 2011) and may also include sexual assault and rape (Pons & Deale, 2010). Going down the shaft, in her helmet and overall, her body is fully covered, but his eyes are piercing right through the overall, all he can just think about is having her in his arms, being inside of her. He moves closer to her as if the moving elevator does not have enough space for both of them. He stands behind her breathing heavily down on her neck. He taps her slightly and she slowly but vigorously pushes him away, as if he does not know what his intentions are he shouts at her, because she is a women, she wants to keep her job, she has to feed her family, she is the bread winner she quickly apologizes for his mistake.
  • Verbal forms of sexual harassment include, among others, unwelcome innuendoes, suggestions and hints, comments with sexual overtones (Pons & Deale, 2010), sexual stories or jokes, whistling and repeatedly asking someone out (Grobler et al., 2011). Working for her orphans, left behind by her husband. Under the scorching sun, on a dry dusty land, she bends to dig, she is sweating so that her children can survive the cruel economic situation. He passes by and says “Mai makabatana”, “Women you are well built/ you have a beautiful structure”. She quickly jumps up, she is afraid to bend and dig, she is now self-conscious is it a crime to be an African woman, tears run down her scotched cheeks, questions in her mind. Why me, can’t women work for their children, how then am I supposed to provide for them.
  • Non-verbal forms of sexual harassment refers to unwelcome gestures, including staring at someone, sending email messages of a sexual nature (Grobler et al., 2011) and the unwelcome display of sexually explicit pictures and objects (Pons & Deale, 2010). With the upper part of her overall tied around her waist, her string top is transparent, her breasts are almost gashing out of the small top, she sits on his desk asking for a day off because she has a headache. It is just 6 am, her shift just started. His blood is rushing through his body to concentrate on his manhood, he is trying to control himself but she is slowly touching her breasts in a suggestive manner. He loves his job, he has a wife and children. It does not mean he is weak or insensitive or an abuser but he is a man.

In many areas, women mine workers still encounter significant disrespect and worse. They must be able to go about their work, whether under or above ground, without having to worry that they will face discrimination, harassment or worse. They have a right and they have a voice, they are women they should be heard. As a man you are her voice and as a woman you are his voice. Let us work together to create zero tolerance to sexual harassment in the work place.