If you experienced gender-based violence at work, don’t hesitate to come out and speak says Volina Eugene Nobilly from SFI Indonesia

08 March 2017 10:58

Volina Eugene Nobilly, SFI Indonesia

To all the working women out there, if you experienced gender-based violence at work, don’t hesitate to come out and speak. Don’t be ashamed!

"At present, I work as the only female senior clerk at the Mobile Workshop Unit under the Mechanical Utilities Dept at SFI Sdn Bhd, Sipitang, Sabah. Our department is part of the Civil Engineering Department with only one shared toilet. And this is where my feeling of discomfort is coming from. 

One particular day, while I was using the toilet, I suddenly felt unpleasant and sensed that I am being watched. To my surprise, as I was looking at the door crack to the very top of the ceiling, there was a man staring at me through the bathroom divider’s wall. I panicked and rushed out of the toilet shouting, “How rude of you!” 

I automatically reported the incident of sexual harassment to my supervisor. He went to the Civil Engineering Department to investigate and carried out interviews with some of the workers, as the perpetrator already left the workplace. The Civil Engineering Department Supervisor has been informed about it and he said he would deal with this case and will take action against the alleged perpetrator. 

Without wasting any time, I also reported this incident to my manager and he submitted such report to the perpetrator’s manager. The manager requested to me to tell the whole story and answered all his questions at the height of my depression. He said he will take appropriate actions to the accused person including a letter to the Department of Human Resources to terminate the service of the accused person.

As a trade unionist, I know I have all the rights and deserved justice from what I suffered. But I also have due consideration to workers and their families. If the the perpetrator’s employment is terminated, he will have a difficult time to raise his family. So I just demanded for a stern warning, put the accused person under observation and a promise not to repeat again what he had done. If he does, a final letter of termination of service shall be issued immediately to him. The Manager agreed to my demands. 

The sexual harassment incident made me feel angry and frustrated. I think my safety is always at stake using this shared toilet. Following the incident, I raised the issue of a special or separate toilet for me and my co-male workers. Unfortunately, after discussions between managers and reasoning out that the areas were filled with channels and pipelines connecting from one facility to another facility of the factory plants, building another toilet is impossible at this point. Instead, I was advised to use the toilet in the Maintenance Main Office which is about 5 minutes by foot. 

We, at SFI, are still in struggle for union recognition for a very long time. One lesson that I learned is to keep on fighting for workers’ rights and welfare. So I did the follow up almost every working day, even consulting our Department Chief Engineer, but was always told the same reasons. Nearly a month of following up, my demand was granted – building of a special toilet for women in my facility. 

To all the working women out there, if you experienced gender-based violence at work, don’t hesitate to come out and speak. Don’t be ashamed. The perpetrators are the ones who should be ashamed of what they have done. Always find someone to talk to and ask for help and support, especially from your union. We need to strongly fight for women workers’ safety place at work because this is our right! AMANDLA!"