Can you tell us your story?
I started working at the Ministry of Forestry in Turkey four years ago. I had been facing verbal harassment as my boss and coworkers kept telling me how to dress, how to behave and which political party to support as a public servant. The head of my department would consistently tell me to be a good Muslim by reading the Quran.
My job responsibilities were such that I had to spend a lot of time in his office to assist him. In these occasions, he would try to get closer to me. Instead of providing me support, my co-workers, especially women, supported my male supervisor stating that I deserved it due to my “style.”
I submitted a formal complaint to the Deputy Director General of the Ministry as this was the formal procedure. Even though he agreed that my supervisor was verbally harassing me, he did not want to disturb the balance of the Ministry and thus he chose to not intervene.
I then turned to my union, TARIM ORMAN-IS to continue with my complaint. The union President got an appointment with the Minister and I was able to talk directly talk to the Minister. Following this process, the Head of Department, my supervisor was suspended from his job. This result had a deep impact at the Ministry, as it was the first time that a young woman stood up and persistently pursued a case resulting in victory with the union’s support.
My victory is for all women who have been harassed, some for many years.
What was the response of your co-workers?
My co-workers were extremely surprised but more importantly, they realized that sexual harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated. Many workers approached me and asked for advice on how to fight against all kinds of harassment and sexual violence.
How can trade unions support women workers who have faced sexual harassment and violence?
Los sindicatos desempeñan un papel importante en la lucha contra el acoso sexual y la violencia. En los casos en que se acosa a las mujeres, los sindicatos pueden negociar directamente con los empleadores y los gerentes. Si no tuviera el apoyo de mi sindicato, nunca podría hablar con el Ministro para hablar sobre mis problemas. Es importante que las mujeres estén conscientes de que los sindicatos están allí para defender sus derechos bajo cualquier circunstancia.
Creo que es importante que los sindicatos negocien cláusulas específicas en los Convennos Colectivos que aborden la discriminación, el hostigamiento y la violencia contra las mujeres en el lugar de trabajo. Deben existir procesos y mecanismos específicos tendientes a presentar y resolver quejas y, lo que es más importante, sea poner fin a todas estas prácticas.
I am also a woman who has recently joined the union. In this regard, my advice would be to remind them that they should not hesitate and be afraid to fight against