Daliet al-Karmel – Kayan-Feminist Organization facilitates a study day to develop a new working model for the prevention of sexual harassment in Arab local authorities
On December 6th, fourteen appointees for the prevention of sexual harassment in twelve Arab local authorities in the Galilee and the Triangle regions attended the study day. The session was part of an ongoing series of activities carried out by Kayan’s Legal Department to promote women’s rights in the workplace, including a safer work environment free of sexual harassment. To achieve this goal, Kayan’s Legal Department has been advocating more stringent application of the law to prevent harassment (1998), which obliges employers, including the local authorities, to appoint an official officer responsible for preventing and responding to sexual harassment in the workplace. The study day sought to enhance the status of local authority appointees, deepen appointees’ understanding of their responsibilities and duties according to the law, and to develop an innovative working model to support their efforts.
“Knowledge of their duties is a critical to the effectiveness of the appointees”
Adv. Ola Shtewi of Kayan’s Legal Department began with a discussion of the duties and responsibilities of the appointees within the framework of the law, emphasizing that, “Knowledge of their duties is not only critical to the effectiveness of the appointees, but is also important for the protection of employers.” She distributed a reference guide for appointees developed by Kayan’s Legal Department, which enumerates the responsibilities of appointees and includes tools to improve the efficacy.
Nada Wahba, appointee for the prevention of sexual harassment in the Daliet al-Karmel local authority, welcomed attendees and noted the importance of the gathering. She presented her own successful experiences as an appointee, including complaint responses that brought about the cessation of harassment and censure of the perpetrator. Yet Wahba stressed, “Despite such achievements, the appointee has a difficult job and faces a lot of challenges.”
The study day also featured a presentation by Tel Aviv Municipality former Deputy Director of Human Resources, Asher Ben-Sasson, who spoke about the innovative working model for the prevention of sexual harassment adopted by the Tel Aviv Municipality. Sasson emphasized “the importance preventing harassment cases before they occur,” and detailed some of the tools he has employed – such as lectures and study days – to raise awareness and avert problems proactively.
“Support of local authority officials is key”
Sasson highlighted that “support of local authority officials for these activities is key to the success of the appointees and promotes the development of a new culture of responsibility within the local authority.” The working model deployed in Tel Aviv by Sasson includes a staff committee to investigate complaints and provide recommendations. According to Sasson, this team approach promotes legitimacy of the position and helps to share individual burdens of responsibility.
“When I was first appointed, I was not aware of this position or what would be required of me”
Participants discussed the advantages of the shared-responsibility working model and how it might help them overcome some of the challenges they have faced in overcoming stigma, raising awareness and processing complaints. One of the appointees remarked, “When I was appointed, I was not aware of this position or what would be required of me. Today, I came to understand my responsibilities and I received a lot of information; I know that I will need even more.” Another participant concurred. “Though I have served as an appointee for the prevention of harassment for years, I benefited greatly from this study day, in particular the presentation of this new model, which offers support to the appointees and helps her to feel she is not alone. Through the study day, I’ve met new colleagues who share in this work and it is very encouraging.”
Concluding the study day, Adv. Shirin Batshon, Kayan’s Legal Department Coordinator, offered warm thanks to the appointees in attendance and emphasized the importance of their continued work to prevent sexual harassment. “Kayan’s Legal Department is committed to provide advice and assistance to the appointees,” she said, “and we will remain in close contact through many events still yet to come.”