EVONNE KENNEDY & SHABNAM HAMEED
| DevPolicy Blog | Edited extracts
PORT MORESBY - Evidence has emerged that the private sector in Papua New Guinea can play a key role in responding to gender-based violence, and that doing so makes good business sense.
Research by the International Finance Corporation, in partnership with the Business Coalition for Women, has found that a gender-balanced workforce, and appropriate workplace responses to family and sexual violence, can provide benefits to businesses and their employees.
PNG has among the highest rates of family and sexual violence in the world and, like elsewhere, Covid-19 related lockdowns have led to sharp increases in calls for help.
The report, ‘Workplace responses to family and sexual violence in PNG: Measuring the business case’, surveyed more than 1,400 employees from three major PNG companies.
It examined both the cost of family and sexual violence to businesses and also the benefits to employers and employees when there are workplace responses.
While family and sexual violence harms those directly affected, their families and communities, it also imposes costs on businesses because of absenteeism and reduced productivity.
For the three companies, the cost of family and sexual violence was around 10 days in lost time for each employee each year, either because the employee was a victim or was helping a victim.
This equated to a cost of about K7.3 million a year. The PNG report echoed similar findings from studies in Fiji and Solomon Islands.
About one-quarter of survey participants reported that family and sexual violence had affected their ability to get to work, be safe at work and perform at work.
Some interviewees said fear of further harm made it difficult to disclose family and sexual violence, so raising workplace awareness and building trust among employees is vital.
This can be done through training and through everyday reminders such as posters in the workplace.
As one man said: “More people need to know what family and sexual violence is. Most of them do not even know what it is and have been tolerating it, and it’s somewhat unknown to them and that is the sad thing.”
Financial dependence is often a barrier to leaving violent relationships. Companies can support employees by offering financial literacy programs, or including financial literacy in other professional development programs.
Given the high prevalence of family and sexual violence in PNG, companies can assume that there are perpetrators of violence within their workforce.
The companies all subscribe to Bel Isi PNG, a case management and accommodation service for people affected by family and sexual violence.
Businesses should consider subscribing to a service like this to ensure employees can access professional support for family and sexual violence.
Improving gender balance and equality in the workplace is the cornerstone of addressing any form of gender-based violence.
Gender-based violence is a cause and a consequence of gender inequality.
To achieve workplace gender equality, all companies need to identify and address the barriers and enablers to hiring, promoting and maintaining a gender-balanced workforce.
Changing attitudes starts from the top. Employers have a duty to create respectful workplaces free from violence and harassment.
The research shows that this will support employees and lead to improved outcomes for the business.
Evonne Kennedy is the executive director of the Business Coalition for Women in Papua New Guinea