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POSH act (prevention of sexual harassment of women at workplace) is an important law passed by Indian parliament in 2013. The Bill lays down the definition of sexual harassment and seeks to provide a mechanism for redressing complaints. It is very need of time to spread awareness about this law in working women irrespective of the sector they work in, their skill sets or designation. In order to achieve this objective Opash Socio-Commercials Pvt.Ltd. decided to take awareness workshops for working women in various sectors on the occasion of international women’s day 8 March 2019. Opash provides end to end guidance to the companies in organized sectors helping in formulation of POSH policy, conducting awareness programs for employees and employers constituting and formulating internal complaints committee etc.
However, it was noted that it is equally important to spread awareness in the unorganized sectors too. So, on occasion of international women’s day OPASH conducted free awareness sessions in different parts of city for women in various organized and unorganized sectors.
The awareness workshops was aimed at women, who are working in different sectors like domestic workers, transport, nursing, social work, household etc. in different parts of Pune (Swargate, Shivaji Nagar, Pimpri-Chinchwad, etc.). Although the scope of these workshops was working women in pune city and aimed at creating awareness about the law in working women, the session was also extended to housewives at various forums with a hope that the knowledge will be cascaded to the working women in their network. Apart from covering women across various sectors and areas, the workshop took special efforts on the changing general misconceptions in women regarding sexual harassment. The purpose was to strengthen women workforce with legal weapon, which constitutes an important part of the country’s economy. The workshop was conducted in association with Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), Sakal Media Group, and Jnana Prabhodini. Workshop was conducted in total 4 areas of pune city i.e. Swargate, PCMC, Shivajinagar, Ramabai Ambedkar Vasahat. It also percolated to various parts of city through Tanishka Group of Sakal Media which had women representatives from the areas such as Hadapasar, Saswad, Katraj and more. Opash team of 8 members split across all above mentioned locations to conduct workshops. Around 700 women were benefitted from the awareness drives.
The background of the women hence type of audience differed at each location–
- Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation: The awareness drive was arranged Labor Welfare Department of PCMC by the health workers at all cadres.
- MSRTC: participants were the admin staff and mainly as bus-conductors.
- The “Tanishka” women from Sakal Media Group were generally housewives belonging to middle class family; some of them were active in social work and formed a well-organized positive pressure group.
- Women participated in Ramabai Vasahat, Patil Estate Shivajinagar were majorly from poor financial background working on low wages as domestic workers, road-side vendors, hawkers, anganwadi teachers;
Although the women from the organised sector are more open about the matters of sexual harassment and share the problems without fear, the women in unorganised sectors such as women in Patil Estate and Ramabai Ambedkar Vasahat were far from expressing themselves. They not only lacked the realisation that the trouble they face day in and out does come under sexual harassment but also have accepted it as a way life. Through the awareness sessions, awareness in these women and sensitisation of the men in the vasahat’s to a certain extent was achieved. Once the women opened up about the sexual harassment faced by them, the statistics that every 1 among 3 working women belonging to age group of 18-34 faces sexual harassment at workplace and that 90% of total cases of sexual harassment were never reported, were unfortunately reconfirmed.
Apart from creating awareness about POSH Act 2013, the workshops also focused on making women aware of changing dimensions and definition of sexual harassment and expanding scope of the law. It also focused to change the general misconceptions arose from social taboo about sexual exploitation. Through these workshops, it was also emphasized that the POSH Act 2013 is not to suppress or frighten our male counterparts but to achieve equilibrium between both the genders to achieve good living and working conditions for ALL and maximum good as a society!
While there is a long way to go to fully eliminate or even to reduce sexual harassment at work place, the change may begin with such simple yet important steps of spreading awareness!