Place Priority on Your Safety and Clients-Mr. Bekoe Urges Participants of Sexual Harassment

A two-day training workshop aimed at building the capacity of Hall Counsellors, Chaplaincy Committee and new Members of the Sexual Harassment Committee has ended with a call on participants to place priority on their safety and that of their clients. Organised by the Centre for Gender Research, Advocacy and Documentation (CEGRAD), the workshop was held to educate participants on how to handle sexual harassment cases among staff and students of the University. “The immediate safety of your client and your own safety should be your first priority. Never assume that as for you; you cannot fall. You must constantly be aware of the fact that there are temptations in this world. If you do not stand well, someone may construe your sensitivity to be love. And that might see your downfall,” a lecturer at the Methodist University College, Mr. Adolf Awuku Bekoe, advised. According to Mr. Adolf Awuku Bekoe, there was nothing wrong for the participants to erect boundaries for their clients to know that they were in control and don’t have “blurred vision when it comes to your moral standing and emotions.” Mr. Bekoe, who was speaking on the topic “Handling Sexual Harassment Cases (Victims) with Sensitivity, said many organisations were grappling with tons of law suits for creating hostile working environment. “Victims are taking organisations to court and in other jurisdiction organisations are paying dearly for creating hostile environment for allowing sexual harassment to fester.” To help stem the tide of sexual harassment, the resource person called for the empowerment of sexual harassment victims by taking the perpetrators to court for prosecution to deter others. Mr. Bekoe said sexual harassment could have a negative effect on individuals and employers, namely: decreased job satisfaction, unfavourable performance evaluations, loss of jobs or promotion, absenteeism, withdrawal from work or school and change in career goals. Mr. Bekoe noted that organisations have dual obligations towards their staff through prevention and intervention as regards to handling sexual harassment cases. “When it hasn’t happened, you prevent it. When it happens you intervened”, he said, while calling for public education, durbars, awareness to prevent it,noting that when it happens the Sexual Harassment Committee should decisively intervene a reported case. He took participants through topics such as “Empowering the survivor of sexual harassment, “Useful steps when handling survivors of sexual harassment” and “Beyond victimizations". Addressing participants on “Legal Definition, Constitution and Human Rights Dimensions, some facts and Processes,” a Human Rights Activist, Mrs. Christabel Dadzie, said most employers abuse their authority either explicitly or implicitly for victims of sexual harassment to succumb to their advances before offering them jobs or promotion.. Some of the topics she took participants through were the procedure of sexual harassment investigations, including creating a conducive environment for enquiry, period of the enquiry, launching the complaint, evidence and decision of the committee. Mrs. Dadzie added that each complainant needs encouragement to stick with process. However, she noted if complainant chooses not to participate in the hearing, the Committee may still proceed with the inquiry. She advised participants not to belittle objection(s) raise by any member of the Committee during investigation so as to serve as a precedent for future cases. She stressed that sexual harassment victims have right to external investigations, adding that complainant has a right to access Police, Courts, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Legal Aid Board and Customary arbitration process. The Director of CEGRAD, Prof. Akua Britwum, made a presentation on the topic “Gender and Power Dynamics in Sexual Harassment”. The Outreach Coordinator of CEGRAD, Dr. Genevieve Adukpo, commended the participants for taken time of their busy schedules to participate in the workshop and urged them to handle sexual harassment cases in their jurisdictions well.