#NoDataNoPOSH: How young women are campaigning for effective implementation of POSH in Hyderabad

The team of budding activists that goes by the name, `Saakaaram' launched their petition asking for a 3rd party assessment to gauge POSH compliance in Telangana.

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  14 Dec 2021 1:15 PM GMT
#NoDataNoPOSH: How young women are campaigning for effective implementation of POSH in Hyderabad

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#NoDataNoPOSH, say a group of young women in Hyderabad, whose Change.org petition has over 500 signatures so far.

They are the fellows of Awaaz-e-Telangana fellowship, a successful campaign that helped reinstate the State Women's Commission Chairperson last December.

The team of budding activists that goes by the name, `Saakaaram', come from all walks of life, who were brought together by their strong belief in the cause of working women. That is the reason why they chose to work towards the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act, 2013, also known as POSH, especially after facing subtle to obvious workplace sexual harassment.

Team Saakaaram

"A casual stroll after having lunch in our IT office campus, my fellow women colleagues come across a male employee flashing his genitals to their utter shock," says Pranava Maheshwari, a team member, who has herself faced unwelcome behavior from men at her workplace in the past.

Saakaaram launched their petition asking for a 3rd party assessment to gauge POSH compliance in Telangana. It was after they learnt that both through experts and research, that currently there is no consolidated data in the public domain to indicate the functionality of the law.

"The law clearly states that the appropriate government is supposed to monitor and collect the data while implementing the POSH Act, but there is no centralized data repository by the government as of now. We need to know how many companies are complying with the regulations, how active are the district Local Committees, how many cases are being redressed, etc," comments Vaishnavi Tammali, who is a BTech final year student.

Instagram Live with Ms. Madhujith Singh, Founder & CEO of Ananya - Women@Work.

Vindhya Chidipothu, a team member, who is an entrepreneur, asks a very pertinent question of how would women feel confident to report sexual harassment at workplaces when there is little to no indication of the law itself. Aren't Raya Sarkar's LoSHA and India's #MeToo movement the result of a system that is failing its women? Apart from the multiple societal, cultural, and economic barriers they face to come forward in a man's world.

But the good news is that Saakaaram got an immediate and positive response from one of their decision-makers, D. Divya, Commissioner, Women Development and Child Welfare (WDCW) department, Hyderabad.

A Zoom call discussion with Ms. D. Divya, Commissioner, WDCW, Hyderabad.

Following which they launched their online survey (https://bit.ly/gendersensitiveworkplaces) after the second wave of Covid. Eighty-five women working in the organized sector participated in it.

1. More than 50% of the respondents are not aware that there is a law to address sexual harassment at workplaces.

2. About 74% of the respondents do not know that the T-She box exists.

3. Around 80% of the respondents did not know that they have access to the Internal Committee (IC) or the Local Committee (LC).

4. 22% of the respondents who had faced sexual harassment at the workplace were traumatized enough that they have left their organization.

5. 46% of the respondents did not report sexual harassment to IC/Human Resources/Management/LC/T-She Box for the fear of their career being affected and 42% did not report for the fear of victim shaming.

The survey reveals the poor implementation of the POSH Act in the organized sector in Hyderabad. However, it is reportedly worse in the unorganized sector with 95% of working women across the country. This led Saakaaram to conduct a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) with POSH experts and practitioners in the state, especially at the grassroots level, to get to the root of the problem.

"A major hiccup for the POSH Act implementation is the denial of organizations that sexual harassment exists. In the IT industry, people say they are all educated and no such incidents take place. In the manufacturing sector, especially in women labor-intensive industries like textile manufacturing, the issue of sexual harassment is rampant and the management is aware of the issue but takes no action. In the construction industry, the daily wage female laborers are subjected to a lot of sexual harassment but have no place to report it," explains Madhujith Singh, Founder & CEO of Ananya-Women@Work.

"Mostly in rural areas, given the number of other issues women face, prevention of sexual harassment is not even given enough importance. Lack of information on the Act and its mechanisms for redressal make them approach the police or the village elders for justice if they actually decide to complain, which is very rare," remarks Ms. Asha Latha from Makaam- MahilaKisaanAdhikaar Manch. A member of IC for several NGOs for the past 12 years and an IC member for South Central Railway.

Taking their campaign for safe and gender-sensitive workplaces from the virtual to the physical world, Saakaaram, recently, went ahead to the WDCW office in Hyderabad to meet the commissioner. They got a chance to interact again with the department, wherein they were made aware of the steps it is taking to address sexual harassment at workplaces, and given the opportunity to ultimately put forth suggestions to improve the prevalent mechanisms overall.

A meeting with Ms. D.Divya, Commissioner, WDCW Hyderabad, with Petitioners Vaishnavi, Vindhya & Pranava. (Core Team).

In an endeavor to gain traction for the campaign further as well as to build allyship, the team has been reaching out to public representatives, influencers, POSH practitioners, and has plans to visit colleges to spread awareness of the law soon.

Vaishnavi with Hayathnagar Corporator, Mr. Kallem Navajeevan Reddy.

Team Saakaaram in discussion with Tammareddy Bharadwaja on POSH initiatives in Telugu Film Industry.

On a whole, we talk about women breaking the glass ceiling to realize their full potential. But how do they do that when they are not even safe at their workplaces to begin with, for which the employers are directly responsible. India's female labor force participation rate is the lowest in South Asia. Doesn't the questionable safety of women at workplaces also play a role in it?

Hence, Saakaaram believes a 3rd party assessment on the implementation of the POSH law is the need of the hour in Telangana. The state with the highest working women population of 46%, higher than the national average as per the recent Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) report. It will give us data for informed decision-making to not just ensure women's safety at workplaces, but also their fundamental rights.

The article is written by Pranava Maheshwari of Team Saakaaram.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not represent the views of NewsMeter. We have not changed, added, or omitted anything to the text. NewsMeter is not responsible for the accuracy of the facts and the content of external links included in the article.

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